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In Absentia

What is the performer without their stage? What is the audience without their performer?  In Absentia is an investigation into the sense of absence created in a theatre environment without the performers present and the sense of absence created within the performer without their recognised stage setting to perform in. As we adapt to the realities of a Covid affected world, this project explores the nature of viewing digitalised dance work and how it compares to the reality of witnessing it in a live theatre setting.

This multi media project commissioned by Scene Stirling was a cross collaboration with Malcolm Sutherland (performance), Lewis Landini (film) and Duncan Sutherland (sound). Please watch the link below in full screen and with headphones where possible.


The inspiration behind the project

How and in what way can and does dance exist in the digital medium?

This was the primary starting point for project as the dance world adapts to the realities of a Covid affected world.  Currently at the time of creating, dance exists almost exclusively through digital means, this signifies a huge shift in both the experience of the performer and the viewer.  Many dance artists have been thrust into this new environment of creativity without choice, as it’s currently almost the only way of continuing our practice, but have we had enough time to actually consider the wholly different dynamic or experience of watching something online instead of in the theatre?

As technology develops and we attempt to make these digital projects feel more authentic, can we ever create an experience that fully replicates that of a theatre for the viewer? 

With In Absentia, we wanted to consider the value or nature of presenting dance work online, and to attempt to bridge this gap between what is ‘lost’ for both the viewer and performer in comparison to seeing a live version of a performance in a theatre.  Part of the inspiration comes from the frustrations of having to present other creative work online through zoom, which although a practical tool is not meant for artistic purposes.  When work is shown over zoom it can drastically diminish the quality as well as sometimes even freeze or lag etc. 

We recorded the footage with an old mobile phone camera to give the experience a unique feel, the shots are often close to capture the intimacy of the performer but one still feels removed due to the nature of recording equipment. Thus we are left with an intriguing ambiguity between intimacy and distance, we want to be there, present with the performer but there is always the stumbling block of the screen in between the 2D and 3D worlds.  Similarly, the sound score is created almost entirely from live sounds recorded during the filming process in order to form a sensory experience for the viewer that brings them to a place which is in someway reminiscent of a theatre environment without being in the theatre themselves.

This project was envisaged not just as a finished product, but as a way of investigating or starting conversations about the existence of dance in the online realm and to explore the different possibilities of the continued existence of this new creative tool.  We want to hear your feedback about this subject so we would really love to hear from you! Please leave some thoughts or comments at the bottom of this page or get in touch/follow us via the social media links.

Artistic Team


Malcolm Sutherland - Performer

Born in Scotland, Malcolm completed his dance education at the Central School of Ballet, London. After a year’s Apprenticeship with Ballet Basel, Malcolm was hired as a member of the prestigious Staatsballett Nürnberg (director Goyo Montero), performing works from several internationally renowned choreographers including Crystal Pite, Ohad Naharin, Mats Ek, Jiri Kylian, Nacho Duato, Johan Inger, Cayetano Soto, Mauro Bigonzetti and Douglas Lee..

From a young age, Malcolm developed a strong interest in choreography, winning the Central School of Ballet choreographic prize. With Staatsballett Nürnberg, Malcolm continued to develop his choreographic practice, creating three short works for the young choreographers evening. Furthermore, Malcolm created the solo, What Lies Beneath, which performed in Tokyo and also co- created the music video, Falling Lives, with the band Turning Plates. Malcolm was a finalist at The Burgos Choreography Competition with Man In the Infinite.

Since leaving the company to become a freelance artist, Malcolm created three full-length productions for the Tafelhalle, Nürnberg. He also was commisioned to  creat Greed, with the company Theater St Gallen as part of Sieben. He has been selected as a member of The Cohan Collective and completed his MA Choreography with Distinction. His work Phi was selected as a finalist at the Copenhagen International Choreographic Competition. Malcolm has also created works for younger dancers, including Aftermath for the students of Accademia Nazionale di Danza in Rome as part of Resid’AND. Furthermore, his works have also been present in: Interdans festival (Belgium), Resolution festival (London) and Stalker Teatro (Torino). Malcolm also collaborated with Film maker Max Zachrisson on Artist which has subsequently appeared in several screen dance festivals.

As a performer, Malcolm has worked all over Europe with different companies including: Klever Dance, Dance Theatre Luxembourg, Focus Dance, Shaper/Caper, Company Shangchi Sun, Kollektiv 52°07, Choreolab Ulm and Interdans. 


Lewis Landini - Film maker

Lewis Landini is a Scotland-based dance artist and filmmaker.

Trained as a classical dancer and subsequently performing with Scottish Ballet for 8 years, movement and rhythm form the backbone of his practice.

He has made work for BBC Arts, Rambert Dance Company, Scottish Ballet, Northern Ballet, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and The Ninth Wave. His work has been screened at film festivals internationally and featured by The Skinny and Clash Magazine.

Recent work includes Beàrnaraigh, a response to the remote island of Great Bernera in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland made in collaboration with three-piece band Luthia, and a music video for Yllwshrk's upcoming single And Let Them
Glow featuring ballet dancer Nicholas Shoesmith and filmed at Leith Theatre in Edinburgh.

Lewis has worked with director and Screendance artist Katrina McPherson as a dancer, camera operator and film editor, and works in television as a shooting researcher on documentaries and arts programmes for the BBC and Channel 5.

(image credit:@dumvisuals)


Duncan Sutherland - Sound design

Duncan Sutherland has been involved in music in Scotland since the age of 7 and as interacted with almost ever area of the industry in Scotland. He’s sung in choirs including the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and Scottish Vocal Ensemble. He’s received Creative Scotland funding with his band Turning Plates towards the creation of their album “The Shouting Cave” in 2014, which was described as “one of the Albums of the Year” (Alan Morrison – Sunday Herald), he was involved in the recording of music for the recent Netflix feature Film Outlaw King and has written sound tracks for short films. He now works as both sound engineer and producer for classical music groups including Scottish Ensemble and Nevis Ensemble, while continuing to write his own music.(image credit:Tommy Ga_Ken Wan)

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