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Black as color and representation of People of color

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

This research started on the stage with the need of understanding how to navigate on the lighting of different skin tones on stage. With my background work with anti racist and decolonial theater and dance plays, as a lighting designer, this knowledge became urgent. I started to question my self not only how to illuminate dark skin tones, but how to illuminate different skin tones on the same scenes, at the same time.

In my conversations with friends from architecture lighting, I received many questions and suggestions about full spectrum LEDs, measurements of light absorption in different surfaces, different ways of measuring and controlling light and its reflection, or to improve the Color Reproduction Index of the skin on the stage. There were so many possibilities of research of technical aspects to understand the skin pigment and its relations with lighting that I had to choose the real research object. I received a grant from the german dance association(Dachverband) in which I have applied for only 4 months or research, in order to establish a basis for this research that in intend to develop in the next years. The following study of initial 4 months focuses on discovering ways of making my life easier on the stage. Therefore, this research is on theater lighting and its poetical potential. The infinite possibilities of colors, directions, diffusion and the way to mix them as parameters was the basis of this research.

The theater craft crosses constant questions about representation and performance. Simultaneously to the practical research, there was a theoretical research about representation of black bodies in western society that passed through classics like Frantz Fanon, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison and Djamila Ribeiro, Aylton Krenak, among others. Another important reference to this work is the Brazilian professor Dodi Leal, that develops a thoughtful work with trans, “dissident and diasporic” visualities as her object of work. Dodi is also a lighting designer and she questions the way lighting is done when assuming a “universal body”, meaning the white cis body on the stage. After having asked myself how to illuminate and represent PoC bodies on the stage and after reading some of her articles, new questions were raised in this research. How is the lighting for dissident bodies, highlighting their topographies? She proposes that we don’t have to design a new lighting for the trans or diasporic bodies, but that we have to understand that those bodies change the light touching them, and that this relation has to be understood and explored while doing lighting. The perspective of another representation of these dissident bodies led me to the choice for an aesthetic research, instead of an exclusively technical one. The proposal consists on the use of colors in a way that creates a water color on the stage, in which different colors are mixed to each other in the space and through the performes, denying homogeneity or whiteness. The idea here is to explore the topography of each individual, against the flattening of the “universal” being.

The motivation for every choice will be explained in following texts, in which I wil explain why using colors, side lighting, no make up, different colors on each sides and a bit about the experiment.

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