Absent Sitters: a Virtual Séance for Culture (2019)

Fully online
Wildly experimental
Take some breaks

A 2019 performance that took an unforeseen turn as the global pandemic highlighted the very essence of “liveness.” At York Mediale 2020, Absent Sitters debuted as an online audiovisual experience, allowing only six participants at a time to engage with its reflective narrative. This premiere serves as the starting point for a series of project iterations, with the audience playing a pivotal role in shaping the concept’s evolution. The project Absent Sitters is a online audiovisual experience that transports you from your chair and through your screen, inviting you to delve into the essence of the ‘missing’ performance.

Within this shared virtual event, you’ll be guided by a medium, prompting you to question the nature of live performance in 2020. Are we truly live? Can we authentically connect through screens? And perhaps most intriguingly, who are you in this unique experience?

“Absent Sitters” fundamentally captures the theme of absence, reflecting on the emptiness caused by the pandemic and envisioning reconnection in the future. Through its meditative and unsettling portrayal, it becomes a seance for culture in the challenging context of 2020. It poignantly highlights the experiences we missed and contemplates new ways of connecting in the constantly evolving landscape of the arts.

Absent Sitters was meticulously developed through a series of intensive residencies. The production is rooted in three key areas of inquiry:

  1. The Dynamics of Collective Imagination: How do performer-audience dynamics generate the atmosphere of a live performance, and to what extent does a performer’s presence impact the sense of “liveness”?
  2. Technology and Narrative Storytelling: How can technology catalyze artistic exploration and creation?
  3. The Artist’s Absence: How can technology enable the creation of experiences without the artist’s physical presence, reshaping the way we perceive live events?

Read more about this research in this article by Mark Carlin.


  • Gazelle Twin, one of the UK’s most influential voices in electronic music.
  • Kit Monkman, artist and filmmaker
  • University of York’s Music Department (UoYMD)