ZOSIMOS – a telematic opera
Zosimos is a virtually site-specific opera, produced for telematic performance. The project will be performed and distributed across geographic locations that come together in 2026, wherein the Borealis festival in Bergen will be the central node.
The libretto is created by Astrid Niebuhr for an opera composed by Jostein Stalheim. The libretto serves as a structural grid for artistic research along four locations, in Bergen, Stockholm, Berlin and Cairo. Each scene will be designed based on site specific explorations and the use of visual documentation, audio field recordings, 360-video and 3D-sound and the development and testing of apparatuses used to facilitate the creation, control and distribution of audiovisual material.
The project further explores how the design of haptic and sonic artefacts, including choice of musical instruments as well as compositional and choreographic strategies may enhance the sense of co-presence across physical distance.
The project explores artistic strategies for interaction between musicians, instruments, and audience through the planning, design and performance of Zosimos, a telematic opera. The libretto depicts a journey across time and space, from Egypt in the 300s to present day Europe.
A central compositional challenge is to create parallel movements between past and present as well as between proximity and distance. With the use of telematic technologies, the presence of multiple sites can be created in a live performance. In order to enhance a sense of co-presence across geographical distance the project also explores how the sense of touch may connect acoustic properties of sound objects with physical artefacts. Such a haptic perspective on music performance entails the combination of materials’ tactile properties and bodily movement, and activates a range of compositional practices encompassing choreography and music.
Further, the project explores the potential of how spherical recordings of sound and visuals may be used to create a sonic and visual scenography for each scene in an opera.
The project objectives are
to explore artistic application of haptic and sonic interfaces in the creation of a telematic opera
how site-specific explorations may contribute to shaping the narrative in a telematic opera
how such technological and compositional means may contribute to enhanced sense of presence in remote interaction both for performers and audience.
The project builds on an understanding of artistic research as grounded in experimentation. The design of laboratory situations is a fundamental building block in which audio and video technologies play a central role for creation, documentation and analysis.
The Zosimos libretto was created in 2014 by Astrid Niebuhr for an opera to be composed by Jostein Stalheim. This libretto serves as a structural grid for the research project. Each scene defines a site-specific exploration, including the choice of compositional and choreographic strategies, interface design, the design of musical instruments as well as tools that enable interaction between instruments and interactive wearables.
Who was Zosimos
Zosimos of Panopolis, also known by the Latin name Zosimus Alchemista, was a Greco-Egyptian alchemist who lived at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century AD. He was born in Panopolis (present day Akhmim, in the south of Roman Egypt).
Engraving of Mercurius Trismegistus from Pierre Mussard, Historia Deorum fatidicorum, Venice, 1675.
The libretto has nine scenes and a prologue, set in different locations in four countries: Norway, Sweden, Germany and Egypt. The methodological design builds on cyclical processes applied similarly on each location.
In stage 1 each site will be explored through field recordings, documentary video and performances and interviews with local artists. All sites will be documented with spherical (360) camera and 3D sound. A spherical camera accommodates virtual presence in remote places, and spheres will be used as backdrop for media objects, and accommodate actors’ virtual presence across multiple locations.
Stage 2 involves a larger team of researchers, where instrument design will have both compositional and scenographic consequences. In stage 2 and 3, individual performers relevant to the scene, will also collaborate in the compositional process. A central compositional challenge is the weaving together of materials from different genres and historic periods.
In stage 3, the design of the dramaturgy for live, telematic performance will be woven together with 360-material, composition of music, choreography and scenography. To create an efficient workflow scenes will be created in a geographical order, starting in Bergen. These processes are documented on video and subject to analysis using stimulated recall. The analysis generates an intersubjective understanding of the artistic processes as it unfolds, and thereby contributes to the design of the next cycle of artistic experimentation.
A continuous process of interface design is distributed across the entire project. This entails creation of telematically distributed instruments, as well as design of interactive textiles and other tools. We explore interface design as an aspect of composition as well as of creating the scenography. This work is largely carried out in studios at HVL and UDK. Interface design is carried out in direct interaction with the three-folded process of staging each scene and embraces the artistic creation in the project: field recording, documentary filming, composing choreography and music; testing interfaces through telematic performance; devising the dramaturgy through the design of the live-video, all leading up to the premiere of Zosimos in the final telematic opera production.
Jostein Stalheim, professor of composition at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) and project coordinator. He participates in the site-specific explorations, and as a composer. He has written music for stage, video, orchestras as well as performance building on improvisation. As the leader of the artistic research-group Kairos at HVL he has numerous projects in the scenic field including sign language, experimental technology, programming/coding, collaboration across streamed platforms and several larger production and staging such as performances including science operas and choreographic projects.
Stefan Östersjö, professor of Music Performance at Piteå School of Music, Luleå Tekniska Universitet (LTU) and currently also Professor II at HVL. He was a research fellow at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent, 2009-2019. He has been the PI of a series of projects funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Wallenberg foundation in Sweden. Three projects have explored artistic methods for intercultural collaboration, a field in which Östersjö is an internationally recognised expert. As a leader of the GEMM cluster (Gesture, Embodiment and Machines in Music) at LTU, he has initiated several practices exploring telematic performance (as in the Global Hyperorgan project funded by the Swedish research council 2023-2026), which have also entailed the development of artistic practices for remote interaction with physical instruments.
Jon Hoem, associate professor in Arts and design at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL). His background is from narratology, interactive dramaturgy and visual design. Hoem’s artistic work and research include haptic sculptures, haptic interface design, interactive design, and the use of spherical media. He is co-leading the research group Materiality, technology an sustainability (MaTecSus) at HVL. Hoem is responsible for the Zosimos-project website.
Janne Iren Robberstad, associate professor at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL), connected to the Faculty of Education, Arts and Sports. She is a visual artist and scenographer. Robbestad works with STEAM teaching through several international projects. She is production manager for Global Science Opera, and she coordinates the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership "GSO4SCHOOL" which is the training program linked to the Global Science Opera.
Anne-Beate Lilletvedt, asssistant professor in drama at campus Stord, HVL (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences). Her background is both from dance and drama/ Theatre. Since 2020 she has been involved in several international research projects: GSO and GSO4SCHOOL (Global science opera); a international project that connects science with the arts.
Federico Visi, postdoctoral researcher at Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK). He is an active practitioner in the field of telematic performance and networked interaction with hyperorgans. He is part of the telematic hyperorgan quartet TCP/Indeterminate Place, which in 2021 received Best Music Awards at the International Conference of New Instruments for Musical Expression (NIME) and Audio Mostly. He designed interactions with the Cinema Organ at the KTH Reactor Hall for the The Tale of the Great Computing Machine opera. At UdK, he is co-leading the project Interwoven Sound Spaces (ISS), focusing on enhancing telematic music performance through the use of e-textiles and tactile technologies.
Berit Greinke, junior professor of Wearable Computing at Universität der Künste. Her research focuses on engineering design methods and fabrication techniques for electronic textiles and smart materials, combining crafts with novel manufacturing technologies. Her work is multidisciplinary, informed by research and practice within design, art, physics, materials science and electronic engineering. Her work has been shown internationally, and has been supported by, amongst others, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK), Medical Research Council (UK), Leverhulme Trust and DAAD.