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Performing Presence: From the Live to the Simulated

The Presence Project

2005-2009: major publication from Routledge 2012

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 environment ...

Nick Kaye and Gabriella Giannachi in Exeter, Mel Slater in London and myself explored these questions with performance artists

Lynn Hershman Leeson | Gary Hill | Tony Oursler | Blast Theory | The Builders Association | Ken Goldberg | Paul Sermon

Tim Etchells | Bella Merlin | Vayu Naidu | Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes | Fiona Templeton | Phillip Zarrilli


At University College London the Presence Project used a CAVE to simulate environments, performances and encounters in experimental exploration and behavioral research into matters of presence [link]

Here at Stanford we ran the online collaboratory a research workshop on the politics of presence (funded by the Mellon Foundation), and worked with Lynn Hershman on an art installation called Life Squared in the virtual world Second Life (funded by the Langlois Foundation).

Several of my own research projects intersect with the Presence Project - particularly where I am exploring documentation and mediation - aspects of historiography, the archive, chorography, archaeography, the presence of the past ...

See, for example, overviews of my work at

Tomorrow's archive

Practice as research


Experiments in (new) media

The [link] Wallenberg Foundation funded my research to assess the potential of the participatory social software we are using for the Presence Project collaboratory (the wiki at http://presence.stanford.edu:3455/collaboratory) - see Co-creating cultural heritage


The Collaboratory - [link]

The Stanford Research Workshop - [link]

Life Squared - [link]

Exeter home page - [link]

Full project outline - [link]

Project members - [link]



Funding and support

The Presence Project received an award of £275k (about $450k) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK. This covered secretarial support at Exeter University, two research assistants, a VR programmer at UCL, workshops, travel and the organization of a conference in the UK in 2009. The award ran from 2005-2009.

Exeter University contributed £3K (about $5K) to the costs of the bibliographic web site and in 2004-5 provided £6.9K (about $12K) to release Giannachi and Kaye from 50% of their teaching in support of preparation and development of funding bids. Further funds of £15K (about $28K) have been made available to the project at Exeter under Full Economic Costing to support the time commitment of the Exeter Principal Investigators. University College London funded documentation (through video) of the CAVE simulations and contributed toward the operational costs of the CAVE ($12k).

My Metamedia Lab provided full support for the Presence Project collaboratory over five years, archiving services after that, infrastructure for the Life Squared project, and for some documentation of artists' work.