By KRISTINE DE LEON
“Scenography 3”, the Union of Mongolian Artists exhibition of theatrical stage art curated by artist T.Gankhuyag, opened its doors to the public on October 31, 2016, for the 85th anniversary of the State Academic Theater of Drama and National Pride Day. The exhibition is an alternative journey into theater a world away from the usual stereotypes, portraying Mongolian creativity in the lesser-known art of scenography.
This is T.Gankhuyag’s third solo exhibition, featuring his latest collection of stage design presentations, following “Scenography 2” in 2011, and his first exhibition, “Dorjpalam and Theater Artists”, in 2006. Beginning his career in 1998 at the State Academic Theater of Drama, T.Gankhuyag has created over 40 theatrical stages. “Scenography 3” features different artistic elements from 15 plays within the last 10 years and offers insight into the artistic sensibility of a scenographer.
A hybrid art in rapid evolution, scenography refers to all of the elements that contribute to forming an atmosphere for a theatrical presentation— acoustics, lighting, set, and costume design. Accordingly, T.Gankhuyag’s exhibition presents miniature theater dioramas, illustrations of costume designs, paintings of theatrical scenes, and photographs of live performances. In groups of costume illustrations, paintings, and photographic works, T.Gankhuyag captures the essence of partaking in live theatrical performances.
Upon entering the exhibit, the viewer is faced with a diorama of T.Gankhuyag’s first major work in stage design for the Mongolian play “Tamgagui Tur” (State Without a Seal) by B.Lkhagvasuren. The miniature prototype of the stage is complemented with paintings and photographs of the 1998 live performance. The stage design is embellished with the traditional Buddhist symbol known as the “khas temdeg”, perhaps a reflection of the play’s intention to instill ideology, morality, aesthetics, and patriotism in the citizen.
In one corner of the exhibition, T.Gankhuyag displays his artistic vision for the classic Mongolian play “Unenii Khaan, Buddha” (The King of the Truth) by B.Tsognemekh. In another major work, T.Gankhuyag presents photographs, paintings, and costume designs along with a diorama for D.Namdag’s “Orolmaa Ekh” (Mother Orolmaa). The tiny mechanisms of the diorama utilize the traditions of the country’s folklore in miniature scale and recall the austerity of the Soviet theater’s influence during the 1930s. The frozen scenography of the accompanying diorama for each theatrical play function as both methodology and a story-telling device, in which time respectively slows down and comes to a halt. The concept of “Scenography 3” generates a dialogue between theater and literature; it is a collective creative process that bridges performance art and visual art.
“Scenography is not about decorating. A scenographer’s job is very important. We have to give the concept of the play through stage design. We do different sketches and designs for every act. We do three versions of one sketch. Scenographers have to work with the playwright and also have to be close with the director. The playwright, director and scenographer are the keystones of a play,” said T.Gankhuyag during the opening ceremony at the UMA Art Gallery.
T.Gankhuyag’s “Scenography 3″ weaves together time and space through a mosaic of theatrical representation, from recreating the Ancient Greek theater in “Antigone” by Sophocles, to creating the stage for contemporary Mongolian theater in Sh.Gurbazar’s “Chi Miniikh” (You are Mine). For the visitor, the exhibition is a journey across Mongolia’s theater medium that is both young and ancient, whose scenography – heterogeneous, hybrid, and intense – reflects the change in the repertoire of Mongolia’s State Academic Drama Theater following the country’s democratic transition.
As Mongolia’s re-envisioned society embraced freedom and openness, many plays by playwrights of the Western world were produced and staged, including William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Victor Hugo’s “Notre Dame de-Paris”, and Sophocles’ “Antigone”. At the same time, Mongolians proudly viewed their history and culture, and the theater focused on historically-themed plays written by local playwrights, which is demonstrated by T.Ghankuyig’s stage representations of B.Galaarid’s “Opposite Love” (the Mongolian version of the Japanese classic, “The Tale of Genji”) and B.Tsognemekh’s “The King of the Truth”.