Lead Author:

Ruth Gibson


Bruno Martelli



Unit of Assessment

33: Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies

Output Category:

Q - Digital or visual media

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80ºN (interactive installation)

Video documentation of installation (14mins/stereo)

Summary Statement (300 words)

80ºN is a practice-research project presented as an installation in three parts: In Search of Abandoned (Virtual Reality), Perfect Circle (film), and Kvitøya, White Island (Virtual Reality).

The 80º North parallel is the line of latitude where the Polar region begins. The trilogy considers this navigational concept centring on physical modes of interaction in virtual Arctic exploration.

Rope and yacht wheel interfaces invite audiences to explore desolate frozen landscapes. The experience is unique to each person as they shift panoramic gaze into somatic sensation. A movement dialogue ensues between the user/audience, the haptics and the glacial worlds. The choreography considers wayfaring and ways to signal perception foregrounding inertia, coordination and proprioception.

Research aims:
  1. Integrate the principles of Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT) in haptic interface design to transmit a sense of weight, buoyancy and balance.
  2. Increase audience engagement through physical interaction in computer game engine environments.
  3. Examine how immersive technologies can heighten the audience experience of the Arctic.

Utilising typical computer game development paradigms the research draws on cognitive neuroscientist Alain Berthoz’s1 notions of perception and action ‘go where you are looking’ and philosopher Laurie McRobert’s2 ‘suspension and consciousness’. Virtual Reality gives depth perception and embodied response as audiences can be immersed in, observe and traverse the arctic from a first-person perspective. Choreographic attention encourages audience agency and discovery developing experiential states of an embodiment of being in two places at once. Somatic principles are adapted from postmodern dance pioneers’, Halprin’s3 ‘exploration’ and Skinner’s4 ‘cultivating kinaesthetic awarenesses’.

From an informed dance perspective, the work builds on the legacy of artists Jeffrey Shaw and Char Davies,5 allowing the visitor to connect to a physical world whilst exploring a virtual one. Immersive reflections add to audience bodily response and understandings of interactive spaces.6


  1. Berthoz, A.The Brain’s Sense of Movement’ Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience. Harvard University Press, 2000
  2. McRobert, L. Char Davies’s Immersive Virtual Art and Essence of Spatiality University of Toronto Press, 2007
  3. Anna Halprin PSI Stanford University 2013 Gibson attended Halprin’s workshop, she spoke of ‘exploration’ and not ‘improvisation’.
  4. Joan Skinner principles ‘weight and buoyancy’ in SRT pedagogy unpublished teaching papers
  5. Shaw Davies
  6. Popat Taylor, S. ‘Missing in Action: Embodied Experience in Virtual Reality Art.’ Theatre Journal Vol 68. 2016


Contextual Information

Exhibition link:


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The three works of 80ºN:

In Search of Abandoned presents, a vision of a non-place discovered in the Arctic Circle on Google maps during Martelli’s residency in Svalbard. A 3D stereoscopic CAVE environment, with infinite duration, surround sound, customised yacht wheel and rope interfaces, stereo glasses.

White Island re-imagines doomed explorer S. A. Andrée’s polar balloon expedition in 1897; allowing visitors to soar over a virtual version of Kvitøya (White Island) in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. An immersive Virtual Reality installation with Oculus Rift, surround sound and custom-built platform, fan system and rope interface.

In Perfect Circle, a 100-year-old sailing boat, Noorderlicht, makes a 360º turn in an attempt to describe a perfect circle in the sea displayed as a video projection onto a 3m diameter weather balloon.

Project website:
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Other writing and citations in relation to Gibson’s research on practice in 80ºN immersive exhibition:
Header photograph credit:

80˚N. Artists: Gibson/Martelli. QUAD, Derby; photograph © Charlotte Jopling (2014)