"What makes you a genius?" It's an obnoxious question for us to ask, but theatrical set designer Mimi Lien graciously answered the night she was announced as a 2015 MacArthur Fellow. The prize comes with a $625,000 grant and the instant pressure of the label "intellectual hero."
Amid the blitz of attention that followed, Lien took time to explain by email how set design is "no longer an 'interpretation' of the playwright's stage directions but a physical and metaphorical container for the performance."
"The first thing I think about is the spatial relationship with the audience — how are they situated in the space? Are they part of the event, or not? Should they feel inside the performance or outside of it?"
Lien tries to conceive more than a backdrop for the actors, she said. She's creating a physical experience for everyone in the room.
"I'm interested in the three-dimensional space that the audience experiences, walks through, sits in — as well as what they are looking at," she said.
Here, Lien shares three examples of work that expresses her ambitions as an artist and designer.