Kinga Oktabska is a final year BA Theatre Design student. As the final degree shows approach we spoke with Kinga about why she came to Wimbledon and what she is working on for her Summer Show.
Please tell us a bit about your background and how you came to study at Wimbledon?
I went to school in the UK before getting a scholarship to study a Design Foundation Diploma at the European Institute of Design in Barcelona. While there I tried different disciplines such as graphic design, fashion, product design etc. I enjoyed working both with physical materials and digital design but I was looking for a medium that would let me expand my ideas into physical space. The year before my diploma my theatre and art tutors from sixth form recommended Wimbledon and I decided to apply for the Theatre Design course. Although it seems to be very specific, Theatre Design is a very holistic course that covers a spectrum of cross-disciplinary skills such as model-making, digital design and editing, costume design and construction, lighting design and so on. I wanted my degree to open a door to different fields within the creative industry and I found Theatre Design a perfect option.
Please tell us about your current practice and your work for the summer show:
My recent work entails a concept of bodily mutations within design for contemporary ballet. I am fascinated by the mechanisms of organisms and by the textures and colours that we, humans and other species wear. I translate them onto costume and set designs. It’s an interesting process to try to recreate these natural forms through synthetic materials – I find it becomes a mutation itself.
My final project represents a reimagining of the classical Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ ballet – in which I portray a motif of metamorphosis. In my design I created a scenography which reveals the coexistent layers of humanity and animal nature and exposes transformations between the organic and the industrialised enclosed within a concept of bioengineering. In my version of the ‘Swan Lake’ the set embodies a metallic bird, echoing the myth of ‘Icarus’ in its forewarning of a hubristic domination of technology. The costume however reflects species transmutation through disembodiment of the laws of nature – a combination of human skin and bird’s feathers on the bodies reflecting the dancer’s hybrid nature as humans/swans.
The project has been inspired by my dissertation in which I researched the concept of embodiment and disembodiment. I analysed the ways in which they are present in scenographic transformations by examples of Wayne McGregor’s ballet, such as ‘Autobiography’, ‘Chroma’ and ‘Eden | Eden’.
Do you have a summer show must-see?
I would see the Set Design, Technical Arts an Special Effects and Costume courses show – for their impressive technical competence and boundless imagination.
What are your plans after you leave Wimbledon?
I will apply for work placements in London dance houses and continue my projects as a freelancer. I am hoping to complete a Masters in History of Art in the future.
Is there a favourite project or piece of work that you completed while at Wimbledon?
It was a collaborative project with Middlesex University where I had the chance to collaborate with choreographers to create a dance performance. Our piece titled ‘Sarira(s)’ stimulated a different perception of a human body through costume, inspired by the biological cycle of life, death and spiritual doctrines – emanating from Sarira Traya, the Doctrine of the Three bodies in Hinduism.
I designed the set forming a cave of life, a workshop where the body awakens and decays. I also created costumes reflecting externalized skin, organs and human clay using some experimental materials such as liquid latex and slime. ‘Sarira(s)’ was performed at the Wimbledon Theatre in December and was taken to Middlesex studio to be staged there a week later.
Do you have an artist influence?
Wayne McGregor, for his fascinating scientific research applied to dance. I love the way he presents such complex information in the purest way, where his ballet transcends from technical to almost spiritual. It is genius.
I have always been inspired by Louise Bourgeois and her sculptures redefining bodies through fluidity of shapes. Recently I also discovered Bart Hess and his innovative development of textile technology that influenced my experimentation with industrial materials applied to costume. Yet I often go back to classics. I love renaissance art and I find Da Vinci’s anatomical drawings and designs of machines a timeless source of inspiration.
Please tell us about your second year work placement:
I completed ‘Divided’, a work placement at London Contemporary Dance School (LCDS). Our year were all divided into groups and I was placed with one choreographer and four-five dancers. We had a revolution theme and were to create a dance piece. It was interesting to design a performance without any use of theatrical lights. All of our final pieces were staged in one room together, the only light for our piece came from a projector which was projecting video mapping and our dancers wore white t-shirts so this worked well. The project encouraged me to experiment with projection and explore its potential in design for dance.
Do you have any advice for future students considering your course?
When we come to university we might have an idea of what we want to do – this is why we chose this particular course in the end. As art students we come to first year with some skills we feel comfortable with, with a favourite colour palette we like to use, or with a knowledge of theories we want to explore further. Yet we haven’t fully discovered our artistic potential by then, but it is important to trust ourselves and our instincts. At Wimbledon I learned that experimentation and collaborations helped me to define my practice and be confident in what I want to do. I would advise going to see shows and exhibitions – all that London has to offer – you will find somewhere where you feel at home.
Also, all of my tutors and technicians are great! Our course leader Lucy Algar was good at getting us involved and going to events, and hosting things like the drawing performance workshop. There was always opportunities and industry people being brought in to work with and share their great expertise. We have built a community amongst our peers and with Wimbledon.