The Sounds of Violence: High-tech Warfare and Sonic Ideology

Violent events are often accompanied by particular sounds: explosions, air raid alarms, aircraft engines, the whistling of projectiles flying by, but also sound made by people and the silence that often emerges afterwards. At the same time, especially in the case of high-tech warfare methods, violent events are oftentimes connected to imagined, largely fictional soundscapes for those who don’t experience their actual occurrence in their everyday lives. Based on popular cultural representations (Cameron 1991), public relations material (General Atomics 2012), and news media reports (Central Office of Information for Home Office 1975), sonic impressions of technologised warfare are propagated that do not match with their actual sounds. The representation of US military drones is a prime example of this. Whereas Hollywood movies and promotional material predominantly feature slick sounds of jet engines and robotic motors, in reality ‘they [sound more] like a small plane — a Piper Cub or Cessna’ (Rohde 2012). Through a focus on slick soundscapes, the sonic imaginaries of drone warfare support the visions of infallible technological efficiency and clean warfare that surround official narratives of military technology.

What are the sounds of threat, danger and security in a globalised culture of high-tech surveillance and drone warfare? How do people from different places in the Global North and South remember, imagine and know the sounds of technologies of violence? And what do these stories tell us about global power relationships, both in terms of military endeavours and the shaping thereof, as well as access to digital culture? By means of an initial exploration of these questions, I travelled around Karachi, Pakistan, for a week in July 2018, together with Karachi-based artist/curator Mehreen Hashmi and artist Yasir Husain (Figure 1; two other project participants from the UK, Alison Baskerville and Joseph DeLappe unfortunately couldn’t make it due to visa challenges). In Karachi, we were looking to meet people from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the north of the country who had experienced drone operations and other military activity, and ask them about their memories that the sounds associated with this.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Mehreen Hashmi (left), Dani Ploeger (second left) and Yasir Husain (right).

Although it is easy to encounter people from northern Pakistan in Karachi – an estimate of 15% of the city’s populations are Pashtuns, many of whom have arrived in recent years (The News 2011) – it turned out to be challenging to find people who were willing to openly speak about their experiences to a few artists that they did not know. The Pakistani secret service (ISI) and the army have a reputation of detaining anybody who seems even slightly suspicious in terms of posing a potential risk to the country’s interests, so most people we met were very reluctant or unwilling to speak to strangers about war and terrorism-related subjects. In addition, our own safety was also a concern when entering certain neighbourhoods, so we couldn’t just visit places spontaneously and speak to people. Until a few years ago, Taliban factions were very active in Karachi and at times controlled large parts of the areas we were intending to visit. The fighters and their sympathisers are still there, but their whereabouts and activities are largely unknown, resulting in a continuous sense of unease about a possible upsurge in activity or targeted actions against individuals.

After several days of unsuccessful attempts to find people, we meet a young journalist and activist, Akbar*, who tells us that he could introduce us to some people from Waziristan that he knew. He would pick us up from my hotel the next morning and guide us. In the late afternoon, he finally arrives and we make ourselves on our way in Yasir’s car. We are heading to Sohrab Goth, a suburb about 10 kilometres from downtown Karachi. The suburb is predominantly inhabited by Pashtuns, many of whom have recently arrived from the north of the country.

After sunset, when most shops have already closed, we enter an indoor market along one of the main roads. Some shopkeepers are still sitting together in their shops, chatting and drinking tea. We meet Wahid*, a textile trader from the area of Ghunday, in the mountains of the Afghani border, a few hundred kilometres from Kabul. He moved to Karachi a few years ago. Seated in the shop of one of his friends we drink lemonade and tea, surrounded by a group of about twenty curious owners and attendants from neighbouring businesses (Figures 2, 3, 4, 5). ‘Before an attack, the sound gets louder and louder. It circles until it drives you crazy, not only because you are afraid, but also because the sound physically affects your body’, Wahid quietly tells us. He recalls leaving the mosque after afternoon prayer, sometime in 2010 or 2011, when he hears the humming of a drone above. Further down the street, a group of fighters on the back of a jeep start firing into the air. Seconds later, an enormous explosion. The jeep explodes. Small parts of bodies and scrap metal were found spread out across the street afterwards.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Interview in Sohrab Goth.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Shop interior in Sohrab Goth.

Figure 4
Figure 4

Interview in Sohrab Goth.

Figure 5
Figure 5

Dani Ploeger during interview in Sohrab Goth.

Just like Wahid himself, many people from Ghunday have moved to Karachi and other cities since the conflict with Taliban factions, government forces, and US drones has been escalating from the mid 2000s. I ask Wahid if he would be willing to give us a vocal impression of his memory of the sound of the drone. Timidly, he sings into the microphone of our sound recorder: ‘Zhungngngngngngng – pssssssssshw – BRRRGHOW!’ After having been almost completely silent during the recording, bystanders cheer, seemingly in a mix of astonishment and amusement. Looking around the group surrounding us, I also encounter the prying gaze of three men on the back row though, who remain silent with stoic expressions on their faces. Akbar nudges me with his elbow. ‘Look, Taliban!’, he whispers with a smile.

In the following days, we meet two other men who are willing to speak to us about their experiences and make sound recordings. Hamid* is from a village in the Bajaur District, bordering with Afghanistan. Before the border was closed in 2003, it took a four-hour walk through the mountains to reach Afghanistan. Nowadays, only smugglers who collaborate with the Afghani and Pakistani border authorities are still using this route. In 2006, the first large scale drone attack took place in this region, killing 82 people in a madrasa in the village Damadola. Hamid never experienced a drone attack himself, but recalls how the sound of drones circling above his village was continuously audible almost every night between 2006 and 2012. Since that time, the operations have become less frequent.

Unlike the noise of the fighter jets and helicopters of the Pakistani army, who also frequently operated in the area, the sound of the drones was actually quite pleasant, almost reassuring, according to Hamid. Not just because of its sonic quality, but also because the drones’ accuracy seemed to improve steadily. In the past five years or so, only militants seem to get hit, probably also because the ground intelligence to identify and mark targets has improved. Supposedly, a small electronic beacon is passed on to an informant close to the target through an intricate network of locals who cooperate with US intelligence. The beacon is then inconspicuously placed in the house, car or clothing of the person to be targeted, shortly after which a drone fires a hellfire rocket locked onto the beacon. Like most people we speak to, Hamid generally considers the US drone operations that have taken place in more recent years to be positive: ‘The Pakistani army supports certain Taliban factions, which they call “good Taliban.” For us, all Taliban are bad, and only the US does something against them’.

At a local dhaba – a roadside restaurant and tea café – we meet Jawad*, a young businessman from Kaniguram in the region of Lower Wana. He tells us that the drones came to his town in the evening or the night two or three times a week. Most of the time they were invisible and only their sound could be heard, ‘which was similar to a small Fokker airplane’. At first, people didn’t know what the sound was, but after they had learned through the media that they were drones, they would flee inside whenever they heard the sound if they happened to be outside. During a visit to the town of Azam Warsak, a few hours drive away from his home, Jawad experienced an attack from closeby: ‘Suddenly there was an extremely loud sound, like a screaming whistle, followed by a big bang.’ He tells us that in drone attacks he experienced from further away there was also often a loud explosion sound before the actual impact, which made the windows shake and sometimes even break in a large area around the place of the attack. Most probably, these were sonic booms; a hellfire rocket travels at Mach 1.3.

These three encounters formed a first exploration in this art-based investigation of the sonic aspects of high-tech warfare. The sound recordings of the three interviewees’ vocalisations of their memories will form part of what will hopefully become a small archive. This will form a counterpoint to the clean, science-fiction-like sonic imaginaries that usually accompany representations of (supposedly) high-tech weapons in movies, promotion videos and other media representations. This will then also be a starting point to engage with another prominent aspects of contemporary weapon technologies: the increasingly blurry boundary between toy technologies (game controllers, consumer drones) and high-tech military appliances. By means of an intermediate conclusion, here are two sketches for future work (Videos 1 and 2):

Video 1

Vocal representations of drone operations in Pakistan by ear-witnesses, installed in speaking teddy bear hearts (work-in-progress).

Video 2

Toy nano camera drone, repainted in Reaper drone military camouflage colours, deployed in a Karachi luxury hotel. Soundtrack by David Fesliyan/Fesliyan Studios.

* Names changed on request of the interviewees for security reasons.

Funding Information

The research activities described in this text, which form part of a project including collaborative research, workshops and public presentations, have been supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund, UK.

Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.

Author Information

Dani Ploeger is an artist and academic who explores situations of conflict and crisis on the fringes of the world of high-tech consumerism. His objects, videos, and apps emphasize both the fragility and rawness of the materiality of everyday technologies, and question the sanitized, utopian marketing around innovation and its implications for local and global power dynamics. In this context, quasi-journalistic journeys often provide the starting point for the development of his works. He is currently an artistic researcher at Leiden University (The Netherlands) and a Research Fellow at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama University of London (UK).

Re-discovering Time

A slow turn. Contained. In a corner. She’s completely in, turning and turning on the spot. An opulent background. Painterly. How many different moves in one twirl! Hair, head, hands, arms, torso twisting. Face calm, body caught, somehow, in this repetition. Face is patient, body wants more. Alone. Focussed. Private. A secret dance. Is she searching, enjoying the movement, enjoying being alone in a space, finding something within her by turning? I can hear the inside of her on the outside.

Projected through a curved glass sculpture, this feeling of place-time is extended into this surface. The scratches in the sculpture, the colours in it. Ghostly. Is she an ornament, an artefact, perpetually performing in this beautiful house, in this beautiful shape? The film is visible from 360 degrees and spills out onto the surfaces of the room. Audience, or really participants, are mobile – moving themselves in response, twirling around the sculpture.

Lizzie Sykes (screen based artist, Bournemouth Uni) and Cathy Seago (dance artist, University of Winchester) have been working collaboratively in a range of sites over a period of eight years. As an extension of this ongoing creative partnership we have focused recently on critically reflecting on our somatic-digital process and works. An overarching finding discovered through our reflections and evidenced across our practice is that of a feeling of ‘place-time’. A central question emerging is how a temporal quality of place – ‘place time’ – can be negotiated and disseminated through somatic-digital processes and their outcomes.

In this initial article we will examine a feeling of ‘place-time’ by reflecting on how the notion of time has had a significant, although at times invisible and silent, influence on our making together. We will build on the contributions of Hunter (2015), Norman (2010), Rosenberg (2000), Vitaglione (2016), Walon (2015) and Wilkie (2002) many of whom are also practitioner/writers exploring the intersection of body, screen and site. In sharing our findings we aim to extend the debates around somatic-digital practice and place, and the potential forms for exhibiting such work. In this article we will first introduce the relationship between dance and film which has been explored in our on-site working practice, introduce ‘place-time’ and outline our approach through two-phase making. Secondly, we will draw from Note (2010), Buoy (2011) and The Mottisfont Project (2016) to discuss how our particular processes impact upon our outcomes. To conclude, we will summarise that ‘place-time’ can be extended across different outcomes and through dialectics of site and movement.

Dance and film

For us, the easy confluence of film and dance happens because both forms are intrinsically dynamic – they lean into time revealing physical movement through space. These two time-based disciplines most happily extend each other’s kinaesthetic and relational properties. For example, the technology of film and digital media frees the dancer from traditional performance proximities, enabling her to deny zoning boundaries of performance by ‘keeping going’ in space and time. At the same time, the dancer offers the filmmaker a way to slice the frame, to play and compose with the parameters of the camera with such force, energy and interest that the film maker isn’t necessarily dependent on large intrusive or unwieldy grip equipment. Both forms have a different but connected understanding about how to use depth and space. In bringing the two forms together, the traditional rectangular viewing spaces of stage and screen no longer dominate. Equally, the site itself can supersede linear progression of a motif, character, or narrative development. There is a lightness and a freedom to be found in this. Building upon our collective understanding of these fundamentals we choose to use dance and camera to create a dynamic sensory response to a given environment. Through this way of working we have discovered a feeling of ‘place-time’ that has become a creative driver for our practice.

Discovering place-time

Our choice to work in public places and without a central single aim of producing dance performance or screendance, has enabled us to explore ways to depart from these disciplines’ traditional use of linear or literal narrative time to discover ‘place time’. It has also allowed us to use technologies to re-make and alter the potential reception of a work via ‘place-time’ experiences. Place-time can be defined as a ‘sense’ of place through the feeling of time which derives from the place, its materiality, form and context and which is drawn out by the co-creation of dancer and film-maker. By spending time in a place with an aim of experiencing both its nature and particularities we gradually discover something of its temporality. Participating in a particular envelope of time as makers allows a focus on one thing, one feeling or one move as time passes, stands still, repeats, freezes, flashes forwards and decays. We get to know it more deeply. Capturing this ‘sense’ in our creative work has required the invention of new forms for exhibiting the outcomes. This has impacted on the development of our particular way of working, which we shall outline next.

Two-phase making

Our emergent process can be characterised by the principle that we work across two phases within the triadic perspective (Preston-Dunlop and Sanchez-Colberg: 2002), encompassing making, doing and viewing experiences. We adopt this triadic perspective in order to weave our responses to what it is like to be here in this place – to feel here, to make here, to see here – across both phases, enabling haptic intimacy.

The constant that we make twice cements the vitality and uniqueness of our work in two phases:

  • Phase one pivots around the joint knowledge of being in – making, doing and viewing through our immediate skin membranes to discover ‘place-time’. We do not know the potential outcomes but they are most often multi-media performance, installation or recordings.

  • Phase two moves from our skin membrane focus into a second, screen membrane focus. Here we digitally and physically repurpose, recycle and repackage the findings for a mobile audience. This involves editing and using a range of other technologies and materials, performers and installation. Phase two often happens more than once within a project; with different collaborations, exhibitions or online.

For us, each phase evokes ‘place-time’. Each is a continual response to a place. Each phase involves a triadic perspective. Each can include altering key concepts, recording and performance. Each phase is shaped by the nature of our exploration and play, freed by having unfixed outcomes. Each phase finds an outcome that can be performed, installed, recorded or projected. Working in two phases across media and sites has enabled us to use a site/performance dialectic to re-invent outcomes. We will next outline the significance of this.

Summing up our process within a wider context of sites

A main focus of making in two phases is to extend the ‘place-time’ of phase one to an audience of phase two who are no longer at the site but who might, none-the-less have a physical experience akin to what we have shared. Victoria Hunter has said of performance in non-traditional sites, that ‘the audience becomes actively engaged […] they have a greater sense of participation and ownership over the performance as they are often responsible for placing themselves physically in the space […]’ (2015: 35). We investigate this possibility in both phases, on site and off, exploring ways to reduce the kinaesthetic gap between the work and the audience for live and recorded outcomes.

For example, in phase one we often exhibit or perform at the site where the work has been made and in phase two we often experiment with screen as a new interactive site in itself. In this way we continue to explore potential experiences of site in relation to ‘place-time.’ Rosenberg has noted the multiple sites of video production – of recording, editing, production and projection (2000). However, our two-phase process has enabled the development of a further site that is drawn out from the phase one exhibition/performance, which has itself been heavily influenced by site, at a later (phase two) stage. As such, the audience is responsible for their orientation in relation to the performance of the recorded work. In our process the ongoing creative dialectic between site and performance happening across the two phases enables us to explore the sense of not being separate from, but included in the ‘place-time’ of the work itself in different contexts. This has led us to question the nature of exhibiting outcomes of somatic-digital work that are more commonly on a single screen, either online or via dance film festivals. An example of our two-phase practice follows.

Buoy (2011): phase one

Over two weeks in the summer of 2011 we based ourselves at a working industrial port in Poole, Dorset. We experimented across this huge site full of enormous objects: ships; cranes; mountains of aggregate; and lorries where everything gradually moved, all the time. This large scale and slow steady pace influenced and surprised us. At one stage we devised a piece around a crane. However, when we returned to shoot the piece, the crane had disappeared!

Buoy (2011) focusses on one large buoy that had been in the sea for years. It was out of the water on a quiet area of quayside awaiting maintenance. It was in and out of place – out of the water, but next to it. Near the buoy, in the water, was a pontoon that had been floating in the same place since the Second World War, moving asymmetrically for over 60 years. These industrial scale heavy objects moving so lightly in the water influenced Cathy’s movements. We linked Cathy’s breath to the waves and the tide as perpetual, automatic and cyclical. Cathy bobbed for this buoy – on and around it – moving in sympathy for this beached giant that was out of its regular rhythm of bobbing ceaselessly in the water. The buoy contained its own ‘place-time’ on the dry quayside and Cathy’s movement was developed in resonance with this durational movement. Figure 3 shows a simple one-minute piece edited for an online dance film exhibition.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Video of The Mottisfont project’s Are you there? (2016), phase one:

Figure 2
Figure 2

Video of The Mottisfont project’s Are you there? (2016), phase two. Projected onto Rebecca Newnham’s glass screens:

Figure 3
Figure 3

Video edit of Buoy (2011), phase one:

Buoy (2011): phase two

As ever in our work, there was no obvious narrative driven journey that took the edit from A to B. Instead we captured the perpetual rhythm of the site itself. It was the ‘place-time’ that resonated with us in a new environment – The Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge in 2012. Here, Lizzie created an 18 screen projection mapped working of Buoy (Figures 4 and 5).

Figure 4
Figure 4

Video excerpts of Buoy (2011), phase two:

Figure 5
Figure 5

Still images of Buoy (2011), phase two:

This exhibit used Watchout software. Lizzie was able to place individual shots on separate screens and merge others into large projections. She could play multiple shots together, scale them up and down, and move each shot across screens in time, as if on a live edit timeline. The screens began to relate rhythmically to each other. Buoy became a choreographed screen performance based upon the concept of the breath of the dancer linked to the tidal ‘breath’ of the sea; the port and the rhythm cycles, surfaces and tactility. The sense of ‘place-time’ was in this way carried over into the gallery space where the audiences made choices in orienting themselves in relation to the changing landscape.

Our two-phase making is intuitive and circumstantial in many ways. In the next section we shall reflect in greater detail on the processes of each phase.

Discussion of phase one

Lizzie says that: When I meet a space I am noticing my responses. How my eyes feel when they settle on something. My eyes know first. They lock onto something. My skin feels it next – a little wave of energy. My body knows it before my brain. My brain has to respond too – it is active because it is listening for these responses, and allowing me to act on them, settling into the backseat. The not knowing, the getting lost, fluttering about in a space between the material and the ethereal, between the very real and the possible. The movement is in there somewhere. We just have to allow it to appear. And we do that by doing.

Cathy says that: When I arrive in a new place for making I am fully open, with my sensory receptors on high alert. My initial response is to the physical qualities and attributes of the place – usually its scale and plane and the form, texture and volume of its materials. My first instinct is to seek out movement, which is evoked in me in relation to formal, structural elements and to my emotionally led social and personal constructions of the space. As I empathise with the space moves emerge which take form, progressing or projecting towards and away from me. To avoid superfluity I seek out their balance, energy and affect on my breathing so I can phenomenologically present – participating in the whole place as a doer where there hasn’t been one before, to become enshrined within it in dynamic motion. My instincts in triadic making and viewing are to solve the puzzle of camera, site and feeling and of what will work here.

In beginning our process by discovering a new site for making we are not simply location hunting for somewhere to move and film, we are seeking to respond to our experience of a place to inhabit it triadically, in order to discover its ‘place-time’. We do this by spending time in a place, valuing its materialities and histories and allowing its innate qualities to affect us. The connection between us and the site happens by being somatically receptive to its materiality: surfaces to move on, in and touch, weather, the wider natural and environmental sounds and sights such as birds, people, sight lines and reflections. Norman argues for the importance of experiencing place and its particularities in making screen work in sites because of our predisposition for relational looking, from the perspective of our own bodies, and the chance to refer viewers back to this particularity. A triadic perspective further encourages us to experience from a relationally embodied perspective of doing, making and viewing. For us, this allows us to be hyper-present as we operate via modes that are alert and attentive, listening with our whole and multiple selves’ relationality to the emergent work within the place.

We can more fully dive into this energetic field as we move together to seek out materialities and instincts in response to buoy, crane, nook, brick, glass and shapes formed by balls and screens as triadic doers, makers and viewers. Vitaglione proposes a foregrounding of the material rather than site specificity in connecting body and site, arguing against site as ‘backdrop’ (2016: 106). However, our process and aims depart from her perspective in two ways. One, we are considering shapes and forms for potential composition within a frame as triadic viewers. Two, we are not limited to screendance film outcomes. An example outcome can be seen in Note (2010) (Figure 6).

Figure 6
Figure 6

Video of Note (2010), phase one – screendance triptych.

Our open-ended approach enables us to embrace materialities of ‘place-time’ in different ways. For example, we often seek out a nook – a particular place that might distil a wider environment – and interact within it as land artists. Here there is a sense of becoming part of the place’s elusive materiality in real time. An example can be seen in The Mottisfont Project’s Secret Ballet (2016) (Figure 8).

Figure 7
Figure 7

Still images of Note (2010), phase one – performance.

Figure 8
Figure 8

Still images of The Mottisfont Project’s Secret Ballet (2016).

In our organic and emergent making process in phase one, which stems purely from being in a place, our phenomenological experience of working for a period of hours and days leads us to seek a ‘fit’ rather than embodying, representing, inscribing or abstracting the site/place. Wilkie, in her survey of site specific performance in Britain has discovered that ‘fit’ is a common notion amongst makers (2002: 149). Our process, through open-ended triadic exploration of the materialities, context and experience of a place enables an embodiment of ‘place-time’ to emerge from our collective sense of fitting with it. For example, we connect with a rusting, robustly balanced buoy, or within the old brick buildings and opulent shapes of Mottisfont Abbey or within the austere glass Kube in clear angles and affronts (Figure 7). In each of these places we discovered a sense of fit through losing ourselves in its ‘place-time’ of materialities, a triadic perspective and an open-ended process. In phase two an aim is to respond and re-capture to the ‘place-time’ discovered in phase one.

Discussion of phase two

In developing phase two, source material made in phase one is re-appropriated to capture ‘place-time’ through a different kind of exhibition. Our aims are to capture the physical experience of movement and to extend the particular sense of time from the original site to a new venue, either a physical space or online.

Walon (2015) has analysed Thierry De Mey’s techniques for valuing sensorial impact and regaining the intimacy of physical bodies on the screen by using, for example, a low camera focusing on ground and body, bodily sound or marks inscribed into the site to capture tactile and kinaesthetic qualities. She indicates how the audio-visual form can suggest multisensory movement to capture the felt aspects of being. However, a question for us in phase two is how a viewer can share a physical experience as well as an empathetic one. Thus in phase two, which has emerged from the phase one site relationship, an aim is to channel our original skin membrane experience through a particular rethinking of the screen membrane. This can be done in a variety of ways. Buoy (2011), for example, demonstrates our approach to taking large dramatic environments and focusing on a nook. By deliberately omitting generalised views of the landscape, we aim to create a sense of kinaesthetic intimacy while exploring the rhythms and cycles of that location.

The Watchout software used at the Ruskin Gallery allowed a reconstruction of the port/buoy physical experience in the installation through interruptions such as changes in rhythm and pace, alternating between moments of faster paced movement and meditative ones, as well as a filmic deconstruction of the gallery site itself. It should be noted that during Buoy (2011) phase one, the Ruskin Gallery exhibition space had not yet been awarded. Further, as the first artist to be awarded the space with its newly installed software and hardware, some of the features of Watchout that could be utilised were unknown to Lizzie. As is often the case, the forms that outcomes take evolve post-phase one and can continue to re-evolve. Phase two often repeats by being recycled and repurposed for different environments and events. For example, Buoy footage was reworked in 2013 to become a part of the first global dance film collage featuring 65 artists from 25 countries as part of a commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of Vaslav Nijinsky and Igor Stravinksy’s The Rite of Spring. It was organised by Burgundy Video Dance Festival and Conference, collated by Body Cinema and has since been screened widely. Despite it being subsumed into a much larger project, the ideas around the rhythms of this particular place-time are not lost in this new site.

A further aim of reworking phase one materials into phase two are for a viewer to feel close to the work and to sense the initial intimacy of the place-time discovered. This is illustrated in the Mottisfont Project shown in Figures 1 and 2 at the beginning of this article. In showing the work through glass sculptures, the viewer looks and moves differently. Further experimentation with the physical and empathetic effect of film projections onto curved glass sculptures were used in Signal (2017), in a live performance (Figure 9).

Figure 9
Figure 9

Still image of Signal (2017).

By paying attention to the nature of the exhibition of the work, a new site can be created. Here, an audience can experience the intimacy and closeness of ‘place-time’ discovered in phase one. By adapting source materials from phase one and its skin membrane experiences, a similar energy and interest is possible in this new site – extended to the viewer through their own senses and physicality because they can be more inter-active with the work. In a different way, phase two of Note (2010), the screen dance triptych (Figure 6) was accompanied by live musical improvisation. Note was created in an empty gallery interior with a series of horizontal lines capturing a sense of repetition and distance within and beyond the body and the building. Accompanied by the Europa String Choir, Cathy Stevens and Udo Dzierzanowski using a six string violectra, mobile phone apps and guitar, the phase two performance captured the original sense of place-time through inner/outer, live and reflected action. Figure 10 shows an image of phase two, performed at Walford Mill Gallery.

Figure 10
Figure 10

Still images of Note (2010), phase two.

In the second phase of our process, installations such as Buoy at the Ruskin Gallery, using mobile glass screens to extend The Mottisfont Project, and live screenings such as Note, exhibitions are designed to encourage an audience to interact with the work from a mobile perspective, as opposed to receiving the work as in a traditional cinema space. They enable us to extend our ideas about the value of ‘place-time’ in an original site and shooting location and test them in a new environment.


In this article we have articulated how a sense of place-time can emerge during on-site working and can be extended into multiple re-inventions of the work via technology and interactive environments. In adopting a triadic approach to our two-phase process as makers, doers and viewers we have been able to consider the impact of dialectics between site and performance when generating new work. While presenting challenges for collaborative working and for exhibiting we have begun to grapple with the potential and expansive ‘fit’ for somatic-digital outcomes through this two-phase approach to working.

Competing Interests

The authors have no competing interests to declare.

Author Information

Lizzie Sykes is a Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University, working with students on BA Media Production and BA Film courses. Research interests relate to screen based media art, primarily site specific dancefilm. Working with forms of installation using dancefilm, Lizzie is currently collaborating with a sculptor and with a composer. Her dancefilms have been toured internationally (Philadelphia 2016, Loop, Barcelona 2012), exhibited nationally (Sadlers Wells 2014, Ruskin Gallery, Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals 2013) and regionally (Mottisfont 2015, BEAF 2018, Arts by the Sea Festival 2018).

Dr Catherine Seago is Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for Dance at the University of Winchester. Cathy has led collaborative projects bringing together visual, film, sound and performance artists. As Evolving Motion, she has received support for choreographic research and performance since 1998 in Europe, the USA and South East Asia and has facilitated community engagement activities (Arts Council England, Asia-Europe Foundation). Cathy’s research has developed through interdisciplinary collaboration with artists and academic colleagues. Her work uses performance and action research to develop creative and training practices exploring notions of flow and flux, building on interdisciplinary theoretical frames drawn from the fields of somatics, moving image and education.


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