Performing Presence: From the Live to the Simulated

The Presence Project

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A research project managed by

Gabriella Giannachi (Exeter UK) | Nick Kaye (Exeter UK) | Mel Slater (University College London) | Michael Shanks (Stanford USA)

The Presence Project will be running from October 2005 to June 2009

What creates a sense of presence?

- the presence of a live performer ... the presence of the past ... in a memory ... in ruined remains ... the sense of 'being there' in an online community ... in a VR or mixed reality environment ...

The Presence Project is exploring such questions with Lynn Hershman Leeson | Gary Hill | Tony Oursler | Blast Theory | The Builders Association | Ken Goldberg | Paul Sermon

We are also fully documenting a series of performance-research workshops, led by Tim Etchells | Bella Merlin | Vayu Naidu | Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes | Fiona Templeton | Phillip Zarrilli

In 2007 and 2008 The Presence Project conducted two exercises at UCL's CAVE.

The Presence Project, through the Metamedia Lab in Stanford Archaeology Center, affiliated with Stanford Humanities Lab, is currently creating Life to the Second Power, an encounter with the archive of Lynn Hershman Leeson in the online world Second Life. Follow the development of this collaborative project at [link] and (blog) [link].

news flash

Performing Presence - the Conference

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The Presence Project international conference Performing Presence: from the live to the simulated was held at the Centre for Intermedia, University of Exeter, UK, 26-29 March 2009.


Performing Presence: from the live to the simulated was an international and interdisciplinary forum for the exploration of how exchanges of practices, concepts and methodologies between art, performance and new media practitioners, between academic disciplines and between live, mediated and simulated performance may deepen an understanding of the performance of presence.

Keynote speakers:

Keynote presentations included papers, performative events, performance, as well as real/second life forums.


The conference engaged with a wide range of disciplines, art and performance practices, technologies of presence, theory and modes and practices of documentation. Key questions included:

For any enquiries regarding the conference, please contact Linda Dowsett, Performing Presence Conference Administrator, Department of Drama,
New North Road,
EX4 4LA, UK, or click here for [email]. Telephone : +44 (0)1392 262332.

Research groups and key pages



ABC of Presence


Presence Project Bibliography

Life to the Second Power

Project Outline

User's guide


Presence Project output

print publications

Adams, M., Benford, S. and Giannachi, G. (2008) 'Pervasive Presence: Blast Theory's Day of The Figurines,' Contemporary Theatre Review 18:2 (May).

Benford, S. and Giannachi, G. (2008) 'Temporal Trajectories in Shared Interactive Narratives', CHI 2008 Proceedings - Stories and Memories, New York: ACM Press, pp73-82 [link]

Giannachi, G. and Benford, S. (forthcoming, 2008) ‘Slow Time: Episodic Encounter in Blast Theory's Day of the Figurines’, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 30:3.

Giannachi, G. and Kaye, N. (2007) 'Presence', Performance Research 11:3 Lexicon, pp101-3. Issue to be exhibited at Documenta 12, Kassel, June-September.

Giannachi, G. and Kaye, N. (2008) 'Presenza', art'O no. 25, primavera (Spring) 2008, pp7-13.

Hershman Leeson, L. and Shanks, M. (2007) 'The artist and the archaeologist', Seed Magazine, Issue 12, October 2007.

Kaye, N. (forthcoming, 2009) 'Disjunction: performing media space' in Mapping Landscapes for Performance: Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies edited by Shannon Rose Riley & Lynette Hunter, New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Kaye, N. (2008) 'Video Presence: Tony Oursler's Media Entities,' PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 30:1, pp15-30.

Kaye, N. (2007) 'Screening Presence: The Builders Association and dbox, SUPER VISION (2005)', Contemporary Theatre Review 17:4, pp555-575.

Kuhn, S. (2006), ‘Extended presence: The instrumental(ised) body in André Werner’s Marlowe: The Jew of Malta’, International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media 2: 3, pp. 221–236,

project-related publications

Giannachi, G. (2007) The Politics of New Media Theatre, London & New York: Routledge.

Kaye, N. (2007) Multi-Media: video - installation - performance, London & New York: Routledge

Shanks, M. (2009) The Archaeological Imagination, Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.


(2007) Lynn Hershman Leeson, Autonomous Agents: A Real + Second Life Symposium, a collaboration between The Whitworth Gallery, Manchester and The Presence Project, coinciding with the major retrospective exhibition Autonomous Agents: The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson, 24 November. [link]


Matt Adams (Blast Theory and IPerG) and Gabriella Giannachi (2007) Between the Public: Blast Theory’s Day of the Figurines, keynote conference presentation, Paradoxes of the Public, Duisburger Akzente, Diusberg, Germany, 24-5 May.

Steve Benford and Gabriella Giannachi (2008) Temporal Trajectories in Shared Interactive Narratives CHI (Computer Human Interaction), April 5-10, Florence, Italy [link]

Laura Cull (2008) What is it to play a character in a Goat Island piece?' Re-thinking the presence/representation paradigm with Deleuze, invited paper, Goat Island Symposium, Practice Reflected at the Nuffield Theatre in association with Dance4, Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster, 29th-2nd March 2008

Laura Cull (2007) Presence as perpetual variation: Deleuze on the 'minor theatre' of Carmelo Bene, panel paper, PSi 13, New York University, November.

Gabriella Giannachi (2007) Documenting Performing Presence, Experts Workshop, Online Archives of Media Art – Contextualisation, Metadata, Translation, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, re:placed 2007, Berlin, 15 November.

Gabriella Giannachi (2007), Chair + A Conversation with Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Autonomous Agents - A Real + Second Life Symposium, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 24 November.

Gabriella Giannachi, Marco Gillies, Nick Kaye & David Swapp (2009) Mediating Performance Through Virtual Agents, Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA) 2009, NEMO, Amsterdam 14-16 September.

Nick Kaye (2006) Screening Presence, invitation lecture and public dialogue with Marianne Weems, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, City University of New York, 23 October.

Nick Kaye (2007) Video Presence: Tony Oursler, Gary Hill, invitation lecture, UC Berkeley, 9 October.

Nick Kaye (2007) Architectures of Presence, paper, Continuous Bodies: Performance, Space, and Technology Symposium, UC Berkeley, 12 October.

Nick Kaye (2007) Presence and Praxis, paper, QUORUM Research Seminar, Queen Mary College, University of London, 31 October.

Nick Kaye (2007) Time and Presence: Nam June Paik, Tony Oursler, Gary Hill, paper, PSi 13, New York University, 10 November.

Nick Kaye (2007) Virtual Performance in a Real World, paper, Research Seminar Series, Central School of Speech and Drama, London, 20 November.

Nick Kaye (2007) Re-placing sites: location, performance and signs of presence in Lynn Hershman’s installation/performances, paper, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Autonomous Agents - A Real + Second Life Symposium, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 24 November.

Michael Shanks (2007) Animating the archive, virtual intervention, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Autonomous Agents - A Real + Second Life Symposium, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 24 November.

Michael Shanks (2008) Memory in virtual worlds, paper and discussion, Conference, Virtual Worlds, MediaX, Stanford University.


Gabriella Giannachi reviews Day of the Figurines
Gabriella Giannachi reviews Rider Spoke


Simon Jones, Imag(in)ing the Void: Or Hiding in Plain View: Thoughts After Bodies in Flight & Angel Tech's WHO BY FIRE | Mike Brookes, ‘10 thoughts (notes on the construction of a document)’ | Laura Cull and Matthew Goulish, 'A Dialogue on Becoming' | Rajinder Dudrah, 'Diasporic Bollywood Cinema Going as South Asian Presence' | Peter Hulton, 'For Eugenio (Barba): On Archive' | Sita Popat, Presence in Projecting Performance | Robert Wechsler 'Palindrome IMPG Nürnberg, Germany'

We welcome contributions on presence and responses to The Presence Project. Please follow this link to the Presence Forum for more details.

Related Projects and Events

Links and Resources

Contributors to the Collaboratory



Performing Presence is supported by

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The AHRC funds postgraduate training and research in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. The quality and range of research supported not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.