With a degree in theatre studies, a degree in visual arts and a state diploma in architecture with honours from the ENSA Paris-La Villette, Emilie Cognard received a creativity grant in October 2020 from the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe, to support the creation of an artwork exploring the boundaries between art installation and scenography for contemporary dance.
Constantly shifting from the present to the absent and from the absent to the present, Emilie Cognard has developed a multidisciplinary practice around the act of graphein* – writing and drawing – underlain by a questioning of dualities inherent in our cultures. Exploring various types of structures – urban and architectural, topographical, textual, corporal – analyzing, producing, and erasing traces, Emilie Cognard questions the adjoining notions of homogeneity and heterogeneity, visible and invisible, form and emptiness, memory and oblivion, speech and silence. How can the seemingly absent help us to read and write the present? How does it affect us, our perceptions, our bodies, our environments? How can interruption and discretion form alternative strategies of resistance and reconciliation of the dualist interpretations of our reality? The graphein instruments, applied by Emilie Cognard in space and on paper, are diverse and simple in nature (rope, barbed wire, branches, neon lights, ordinary objects and surfaces, water, pen and brush ink, etc.). Superimposed, transformed, framed with precision, these tools create a scenographic, plastic, architectural approach in line with minimalism and abstraction. Dark, Emilie Cognard’s artistic writing receives its “colour” from the necessary distance the eye must regularly take from the daily perception to adapt to the barely visible difference with the real, and to discover the richness of variety found within unity itself. Disturbing, this writing carries reality beyond itself, the line beyond its trace, the body beyond its materiality, the actor beyond the play, the staging beyond the stage, the space beyond the place, the mind close to the soul. In a permanent interconnection, Emilie Cognard’s works are born between delicacy, poetry, strangeness and mystery which, dealing with the invisible, the absence, the silence, underline the potentialities of the in-between.
Emilie Cognard began her studies in the city of Paris in 2001, first attending University of Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III, followed by University of Paris 8 and then at the ENSA Paris-La Villette. A training that she continuously complemented with courses in drawing, sculpture and history of art at the Ateliers Beaux-Arts in Paris. Since then, Emilie Cognard has built a multidisciplinary career in stage design/scenography, art and architecture. In 2005, she realised her first installations and stage designs. In 2010, she completed a year of study at the Architecture Department of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. She settled permanently in Berlin at the end of 2012. In 2014, she started as an assistant to stage designer Jan Pappelbaum. That same year, she also worked as assistant stage designer on a production by choreographer Sasha Waltz at the Berlin Staatsoper, and made her début as a stage designer in the Berlin independent theatre scene. In 2015, she continued her collaboration with Jan Pappelbaum for the production Bella Figura directed by Thomas Ostermeier. For the seasons 15/16 and 16/17, she obtained a permanent position as assistant stage designer at the Schaubühne Berlin. She cooperated with stage designers with strong and striking aesthetics on various productions directed by Michael Thalheimer, Falk Richter, Nicolas Stemann, Katie Mitchell and Milo Rau. During this period, she also worked under her own name at the Schaubühne, on productions such as Macht was Ihr wollt and PEMDAS (FIND Festival 2017, directed by Christoph Buchegger). From 2017 to 2019 Emilie Cognard regularly worked with directors Claudia Marks and Rafat Alzakout and created among others stage designs for Ya Kebir and Your love is Fire (Berlin Performing Arts Festival, Ruhrfestspiele-Recklinghausen, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Thalia Theater Hamburg). In 2018, she conceptualized and created the installation zu Füssen der Steine liege ich Dir zu Füßen in collaboration with the architect Andreas Trampe-Kieslich (OMT architects). That same year, she also worked as a scenographer and installation designer with the artist Katharina Ziemke for her exhibition La lune, comme un sabre blanc at the Galerie Isabelle Gounod in Paris. In 2019, with her ink drawings, Emilie Cognard participated in a collective exhibition and auction, 100 unter 100, organised by Studio Baustelle in Berlin. In 2020, she created the project Silence 6, which started with two phases composed of a series of drawings and an installation. The third phase of the project, supported by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe, in collaboration with musician and composer Christian Grothe and choreographer and dancer Evelin Facchini, led her to redefine the process of stage design for dance and to continue reinventing her artistic practice.
*Ancient Greek term, at the origin of the suffix -graphy, whose primary meaning is “to carve”, “to engrave characters”, to write, but also to draw. Etymology of the word scenography, skênographia (skênê, “scène” (stage) and graphein, “write”).