Fernando Ocampo works as a dramaturg and architect in Chile. He studied dramaturgy, theatre and architecture in Chile and Mexico. He founded MOODLAB in 2011.
What does the idea of an ‘outside eye’ or dramaturg mean to you?
Fernando: I find it interesting to share the idea of an “outside eye” as a conceptual basis to question new practices from the figure of a dramaturg and his corresponding role within certain projects outside and inside of a merely theatrical environment. “The idea of the external observer”, has been the subject of various theories in the theatre pedagogy so far, in more formal disciplines such as architecture.
I am an architect by profession, and I also consider myself a dramaturg as a result of that meaning. The reason for this overlap of terms << architect and dramaturg >>, means that, from different ways of learning at the School of Architecture (also considering some studies of lyrical and dramatic writing I’ve done in parallel in my college days) I realised that the task of an architect, is not only to design physical buildings for people to live in (this is how most people identify us), but also to create from them, psychological and social constructions that become important buildings or dividing walls that create spaces where people can find a place. When an architect designs a space, he is also defending people’s behaviour, so I think it is important to consider the practice of the architect as a playwright, because somehow we architects are agents that make possible or not, that different situations or practices are carried out in that space. The same happens in the writing of a text for the theatre, the dramaturg is creating a verbal structure for spaces, personalities and temporalities, which in the end become “dramatic” .
How does a process evolve with an artist or theatre? Is it project-specific? How does the relationship work?
Fernando: I think it would be interesting to consider including the role of the dramaturg in architectural practice, specifically in projects aimed at designing public spaces. The Architect-dramaturg relationship should take place throughout the design process. The processes will depend on the type of project. The idea points to the possibility of creating new structures of intentions that accept the intersection of disciplines in those processes (I mean the procedures). I think this relationship would be a great contribution to society and would lead to interesting solutions. The communication modes would be varied; it is a fact that by including a playwright, verbal language would take an important place in project formulation
Do you find the role of the dramaturg sits inside or outside of the process, is it subjective or objective?
Fernando: Inside the process, the role of the playwright is factual, but pointing to subjectivity, because his work is not to define the final results of the project, but rather, to suppose them to make way for other possibilities. The architect’s role is more objective, because there will always be a formal result, visual or spatial that betrays it. However, subjectivity and poetic charge I suggest is that the architecture work can also consider as a result, other categories of spaces: emotional spaces, which lead us to memory and to meet with our identity.
Please could you describe any hierarchies implicit in the relationship?
Fernando: I think the point is not to define hierarchies, but rather, to enable different mentalities to synchronize in order to reach a common project.
How does a dramaturg document the dialogue they have with the artist? Is it open or closed, public or private?
Fernando: I read something about the neologism “crealogar” I do not know how to translate it into English, but it referred to the “creation of meaning”, or “to create meaning through dialogue”, that is the relation. The type of documentary representation depends on the disciplines involved. Each will seek the way to make themselves understood to others in order that communication exists.
How would you describe the value of the dramaturg in the current climate in Chile?
Fernando: The inclusion of the dramaturg figure in the creation of projects that are outside of the theatrical discipline is almost zero, not only in the Chilean culture but in most Latin American countries. However, actually there are more presentations and panel discussion of specific issues related to the design of performance, where the intersection of disciplines can be clearer and could have more room for the idea of this duality “Architect – Dramaturg”
Recently under the International Theatre Festival Santiago a Mil (most important performing arts cultural event in this country), the Architect Rodrigo Tisi, (who was responsible for the curatorship of the Chilean presence in the last PQ Prague Quadrennial 011) together with the architect Pablo Despouy, presented a new version of “public-participatory” space called “Intersección” (intersection) an art installation created from questions like “What is performance and who is performing it? Is the theatre stagy? A delusion, a blatant lie or one of the most basic ways to express ourselves every day?” These were speeches that somehow represent a paradigm shift in new architecture practices in the Chilean context.
It is notable that now, during seminars and workshops taught by architects, they no longer speak of concepts such as “material”, “time” and “space” but rather of “materiality“, “temporality” and “spatiality” (inclusive of “theatricality“), terms that somehow include the “user experience” and not only the characteristics of the building. By this I mean that things in Chile and Latin America are changing. There are professionals interested in (re)building from this dialogue “common sense” and to escape from disciplinary traditions that gradually become more obsolete to address contemporary problems. However, Chile (re)presents itself as a nation with a valuable dramaturgical legacy which has served as a vehicle of national character and has forged strong cultural identification features among its population. So dramaturgy, or rather the dramaturg, remains the basis of Chilean theatre, despite the fact that disciplinary modes are changing.