Interview by Ekaterina Khaletskaya based in Moscow
When Maria Klochkova, 26, says her job is “illuminating the stories,” she meant it literally – Maria is a lighting designer. She is also a London based graphic designer who uses various design tools applied to dance, theatre, books and other mediums to showcase stories in the most authentic way.
Maria studied graphic design in Russia, and then went on to pursue her masters in lighting at Central Saint Martins College in London. She was the lighting designer for Hamlet by The Purple Hibiscus Theatre Company. Her other projects also include Street Stories: Dance Collaborations 2013′, an East London Dance and Royal Opera House project, and the ‘Walking’ Project by Robert Wilson.
Art Zeen caught up with Maria Klochkov to exchange thoughts on design as a form of art and the future of books and theatre.
Art Zeen: Who or what inspired you to become a lighting designer?
Maria Klochkova: At the beginning of my theatre studies I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do. One day a professor at Central Saint Martins introduced us to Robert Wilson’s work. RW is an American director, performer, choreographer, painter, sculptor, video artist, sound and lighting designer. A Renaissance man. The visual language of his work is iconic and the core ideas of his performances are powerful. Last summer I was lucky to perform in one of his pieces here in Norfolk, UK. I was inspired and excited. He is the type of person whose energy you feel across the room.
Art Zeen: Would you say that design is a form of art?
Maria Klochkova: Design is so strongly connected with art that it’s difficult to compare or contrast the two. I would go with the motto “design is art that makes itself useful”. During the Modern Era, rapid changes in society led to a clear separation between the world of the arts and the world of machines. This division became irreversible towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the idea of art for art’s sake (after French l’art pour l’art, by Victor Cousin) appeared. At that time, the concept of design as a bridge between the two worlds was born. But there is not much point in the comparison of art and design. Design is one of the avenues, like literature or music for example, that help the artist share his or her ideas with the world.
Art Zeen: Is it common to think that the lighting designer only follows someone else’s orders by simply fitting together the components that already exist?
Maria Klochkova: Yes, it is true. Yet on the other hand, designers can have their own projects and style, like Philippe Starck does. Both artists and designers are limited by materials, techniques and technology. Like a sculptor that chooses a block of marble but needs to chop off whatever he does not need. The artist or the designer has to overcome the innate strength of the material or the complex demands of a client.
Art Zeen: You moved from book design to performance design – how did this transition happen? What is the difference between these media for you?
Maria Klochkova: Book design and performance design are not as different as one may think. Both tell stories but use different tools. A printed book is an interactive performance which uses text, texture, materials, composition and colour to tell a story while theatre uses actors, set, sound, light and other tools. Reading itself is a complex interactive process. Reading is dead without the reader, as much as performance is dead without the spectator. And after the digital shift in publishing, these two media have become even more similar.
Art Zeen: You say you are illuminating stories. Tell us more about what hidden things become visible when you do this.
Maria Klochkova: You will never notice good lighting or graphic design. They are seamless. At the same time, the ability of lighting design to influence the composition, colour and rhythm is a very powerful storytelling tool. In some sense it is like music – it could completely change the perspective and atmosphere of the story for the audience. Lighting could be used to communicate ideas which are hard to communicate through text, movement or sound. The same is true with graphic design. Whether the book is hard to read, or you are drowning in the text, graphic design becomes the medium that lets you communicate ideas and create the experience for the reader.
Art Zeen: How do you come up with the approach to lighting in a theatre performance?
Maria Klochkova: I prefer getting involved in the production from the very beginning. The earlier I talk with the director, set/costume designer the better. The production outcome is only successful if еveryone on the team is on the same page. I do a lot of research and try to visit as many rehearsals as possible. I draw, especially if it is a dance piece. Trying to feel the choreography movement through the drawing movement. For inspiration, I often go to see other productions.
Art Zeen: What is the future of theatre?
Maria Klochkova: Theatre is a tool to change the world. Today, religion and politics fail us. How will we teach our children what is good and what is bad? How will we make this world a better place? Education is the way. It is a way to make sure everyone knows that all races, religions, sexes and sexual orientations are equal. Politics corrupts education. Theatre makes us think and teaches us how to be free. It shows us the bigger picture – that in the end, we are just tiny specks in the middle of the universe.