Fusion solutions for remote performers: A Telepresence

Paul Sermon, Steve Dixon

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The paper presents findings from the authors’ ongoing research project ‘Collaborative Solutions for the Performing Arts: A Telepresence Stage’, funded by a ‘COVID-19 Rapid Response’ scheme grant from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)—Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). In the light of lockdowns and safe distancing issues, the project aims to develop effective and affordable new approaches to connect theatre and dance performers from their separate homes or studios and place them within virtual sets online where they can improvise, devise, rehearse and perform together as if on a real stage. The paper presents and analyses how a range of telematic chromakey systems are being employed to bring a whole new level of creativity to videoconference-based performance work, freeing the performers’ bodies from the entrapment of Zoom boxes and co-locating them in specially designed 3D environments.

It examines case studies from some of the projects the researchers are working on with eight professional performance groups. These involve visually bringing together the remote individual performers within different types of virtual sets, configured using perspectival layers and objects to enable sophisticated effects and illusions. Working within such environments, and using different telematic hardware and software systems, leads them to experimentation with new audio-visual ideas and theatrical effects; and opens up opportunities for imaginative new approaches to dramaturgy and story-telling. They include Phoenix Dance Theatre’s explorations of the potentials of dancing in and around holes in the ground into which they suddenly disappear; Creation Theatre’s ability to join and take on 19th century opponents in a drunken card game, situated within Paul Cézanne’s classic painting The Card Players (1895); and Pigeon Theatre’s surreal journeys into a TV set and through endless corridors which rapidly fill with toys, children, then dangerously rising water ...

The paper goes on to discuss a range of theoretical and psychological issues raised in telematic performance including empathy, communion, presence, intimacy, point of view, subjectivity and objectivity. It interrogates the mirroring notion of the third space (the screen where participants are conjoined) in relation to how the self and the other are allowed simultaneous reflection. By simply combining these views within the same image we become kinaesthetically conscious and in control of our combined coexistence, escaping our individual isolation. The project demonstrates how telematic performance can in certain ways offer more than physical encounters permit, since the presence and observation of their own body in the third space as well as ‘the other(s)’ provides the participant with an opportunity to make coinciding subjective and objective observations. Since on screen their self is also the other, they are able to reflect on the interactions and performances occurring in front of them while seeing themselves as being directly responsible for it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2021
EventNOWNET ARTS CONFERENCE 2021: Network Arts: Transformation of Distance - Stony Brook University, New York, United States
Duration: 4 Nov 20217 Dec 2021


Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew York


  • Telepresence
  • Performance
  • pandemic
  • Theatre
  • online
  • Telematic


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