Expanded Cinema

‘Cinema is a religious experience.’ Derren, Wells, Tarkovsky and everyone since are a testament to this statement – using icons, fables and ritual to build a following through transcendent experience.

Music, more specifically the live concert can be given a similar claim. Transforming peoples lives, giving them hope and a sense of identity.

Expanded Cinema is a format which brings these two practices together or as the Tate Britain defines:

Expanded cinema is used to describe a film, video, multi-media performance or an immersive environment that pushes the boundaries of cinema and rejects the traditional one-way relationship between the audience and the screen


Where I Found It

Through my film studies, I was introduced to this concept and led through fascinating debates by Dr Stefan Popescu and Dr Yuji Sone who opened my eyes to the power of imagery and the religious value we place on these shared encounters. Streaming content has an enormous influence on modern discussions, creating a new-wave of (inactive) activism, but its format does not create this – it is the water-cooler chats which inform our sense of purpose. Where as the live music concert takes hold of us in the present, it has immediacy. Rarely could we say watching a video at home provides the same sense of belonging that we get from a shared concert experience.

Thus, I have spent a large part of my career exploring the intersection between the stage, sound, cinema and screen. How does the screen perform in a music experience? What importance is sound in the cinema?

This inspired the creation of a series of interactive works, installations and concert performances.

The Experiences

These began during a residency in Sydney with dLux Media Arts. With Tim Urgh we developed a system which would record video of body parts from people at the event, then edit into a live music performance.

During my time at the Freezer in the little town of Riff in Iceland, I worked with four other artists to turn the stage into a space within the mind of a woman, reflecting on her traumatic experience with another woman during the early Viking sagas. In our work Froda, the audience inside the large converted fish freezer felt the physical chill and inescapable claustrophobia or the performer on stage. My role was to visualise symbols and deploy looping, repetitive and enlightening techniques you would typically find during a church sermon or CBT session. 

The tale of Froda

I toured with musician Digvalley to add visual stories to his music shows. Creating narrative interludes which led the audience through the songs.

In Cambridge, I found the group Explorers Society with whom I took documentary film making and added it to the mix. The story of how an orchestra devised a concert became the story projected within the concert experience. This culminated in performances at St Johns Hall, Jesus College, Gonville and Caius and three annual performances at the Kings College Chapel in Cambridge.

A scene from our work – Spheres

Through the pandemic of 2020, I have been capturing the environment, the people and the conversations surrounding lockdown and our sense of space. The series Six Feet Apart is still in development and always looking for commercial or creative partners.

If you would like to talk more, then please schedule a chat here.

Thank you,

Rhys Votano