Perceptions of beauty

When approaching my research, I was aware that the term ‘beauty’ could be applied to many things. In order to establish a focus for my work, I first listed numerous topics that related to beauty. These included; beauty found in nature, the mystery of how we are able to recognise beauty, attributes of beauty, and realising beauty within art forms i.e. painting, music, film etc.

The brief itself suggested that the installation should explore “perceptions of beauty”. This could be open to interpretation, e.g. cultural ‘images’ beauty; how differently a large number of people may view a single object.

Cultural images of beauty only reinforce the mystery that if all cultures, or indeed every single person, has their own ideal ‘image’ of physical beauty, then it is perfectly plausible that there is no one, single, universal image of physical beauty. Accepted standards of physical beauty have transformed over time, based on changing cultural and social values. What was once regarded as beautiful, could be considered ugly today. Therefore, is beauty truly associated with physical appearance? If the appearance of beauty is constantly changing, then physical appearance has no lasting basis in determining true beauty.

Realised Design Project – New College Nottingham 2017

Installation and dance performance
A study of beauty

My fascination with this particular project, originated when I first discovered that it would provide an opportunity to represent, through design, the possibility of encountering ‘beauty’. Unlike designing for a performance, where the potential beauty, or moral teaching, within the narrative lies beneath the surface, this project would directly address the universal question – which has baffled mankind since the beginning of human existence – what is ‘beauty’?

This project would focus on the exploration of ‘beauty’ presented in the form of an installation/museum environment, where the audience could independently move around and “reflect on their own personal ideal of beauty”. Designed and produced for ‘Nottingham College’, I would be working as the set designer alongside a director, costume designer, four theatre technicians, and ten dancers (students) aged from eighteen to twenty-six, with each of the dancers required to perform a solo dance within the performance space. Throughout the project, I was tasked to organise their own design ideas within the set, and communicate with them concerning their individual performances. In order to maintain regular contact with the group, the director arranged, at the beginning of the term, that we would meet weekly during the lead up to the final production week.