Open City Documentary Festival

across London
We do not have any future dates for this course set.

Multisensory Experimental Filmmaking (Online)

A unique, online course exploring the theories and applications of visual and public anthropology in the context of experimental multisensory storytelling.

During the last decades, multisensory art and filmmaking and the role digital technologies play in their production have been increasingly explored. Theoretical frameworks and artistic and curatorial practices have particularly focused on the design, production, and fruition of multisensory experiences. At the same time, the expansion of the concept of ‘scenography’ beyond more traditional theatrical and film settings has come to include potentially all environments, objects, actors and actions (McKinney & Butterworth 2009, Lotker & Gough 2013, McKinney & Palmer 2017, Aronson 2017), while other areas of study and research such as sensorial urbanism and visual anthropology, have equally shown an increased interest in the transformative potential of embodied, multisensory dimensions of public and artistic events.

This online course is aimed at filmmakers, or anyone interested in theories and applications of visual and public anthropology in the context of experimental multisensory storytelling. Students are encouraged to research for their real or hypothetical project and explore methodologies and technologies that can help them take the next step with their ideas for a multisensory film, art installation, or virtual media.

The course will combine introductory lectures, screenings, individual research, and group discussions. A book list and weekly reading will also be provided.


Course Content over six sessions:

Week 1. The Multisensory field of perception 

This week we explore multi-sensory engagements with the environment and how different areas of anthropological studies have begun to engage with and explore sensory perception.  We will also explore the expansion of the concept of ‘scenography’ beyond more traditional theatrical and film settings to include potentially all environments, objects, actors, and actions for the purpose of experimental multisensory storytelling.

Films & other resources:

Leviathan, by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel (2012)
People’s Park, by Libbie Dina Cohn and J.P. Sniadecki (2012)
Manakamana, by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez (2013)
The Silent World, by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle (1956)


Week 2. Experimental filmmaking and sensory representations

This week we look at how experimental filmmakers and visual artists engage with the multi-sensory world by looking at some case studies including sensory (visual but also sound), digital-virtual, interactive visual art (installations), and performance art and the technologies employed.

Films & other resources:

Cool and Crazy, by Knut Erik Jensen (2001)
Bergensbanen minutt for minutt, by Thomas Hellum (2009)
Rapture, Shirin Neshat (1999)
Vertigo Sea, by Akomfrah (2015)
The Future Of Cinema In Virtual Reality, by Virtual Reality Oasis
Sanctuaries of Silence, A Virtual Reality Experience by Adam Loften
and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee (2018)
Awavena, by Lynette Wallworth (2018)
Virtual Futures: A Manifesto for Immersive Experiences


Week 3. The multisensory urban space, cross cultural identities, and migration

This week we explore the intersection of questions of identity, migration, and the diverse cultural heritage of contemporary urban spaces and the role they have played in expanding the boundaries of ethnographic visual research towards multi-sensory dimensions of socially engaged artistic practices and documentary filmmaking.

Fire at Sea, by Gianfranco Rosi (2016)
… And the Pursuit of Happiness, by Louis Malle (1986)
A Ciambra, by Jonas Carpignano (2014)
New Realities, Ten Young Women, Ten Countries, One World, by Ava DuVernay, using Lenovo Technology (2021)


Week 4. Participatory research and the everyday life 

This week we explore how participatory research methods and new critical perspectives of representation, digital technology, and activist engagement are reframing the field of ethnographic filmmaking, including the use of multisensory and experimental visual arts. Students will be asked to devise strategies of investigations, including oral history interviews, liaising with community or activist groups, schools, old people homes, and anyone else who might be relevant to explore everyday life through multisensory lenses.

The ‘vital’ role of mobile phones for refugees and migrants, by Gavin Lee (2015)
Filming the Revolution, by Alisa Lebow (2011)
Corona Diaries, by Sandra Gaudenzi (i-Docs), Sandra Tabares Duque (audiovisual producer), Francesca Panetta (MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality) and Halsey Burgund (sound artist) (2020)
Zelige Door on Golborne Road, by Alda Terracciano (2017)
Life in a Day, by Kevin Macdonald. Produced by Ridley Scott (2010)
The last Goodbye, Shoa Foundation (2017)


Week 5. Independent research

During the week, students will work independently to gain primary knowledge and documentation on a topic of their choice connected with case studies discussed in the previous week, including the technology involved, such as multisensory devises, locative media and digital art. They will be invited to consider experimental documentary filmmaking as a domain of anthropological inquiry, exploring ways of creating stories in culturally, socially, and historically specific contexts as well as other sensory ways of engaging with the environment. They will also be encouraged to see a project or exhibition that could inspire their filmmaking ideas and to write a short summary of their experience which will be discussed in the following class.


Week 6. Project sharing and peer discussion

Presentation of individual or group projects (including short films, assemblages, performance photographs, multimedia installations) for groups sharing and peer discussion. The discussion will focus on students’ individual projects and their relation to experimental documentary as a domain of anthropological inquiry, discussing ways of creating stories in culturally, socially, and historically specific contexts as well as other sensory ways of engaging with the environment.


Course Outcomes

  • A critical understanding of different theoretical traditions and practical applications of multisensory storytelling within public anthropology (with a focus on film, installation art, visual media, including immersive media).
  • An expanded understanding of ethnographic writing practice and scope (e.g. within immersive environments, installations, etc)
  • An ability to develop ideas for an individual project, focusing primarily on experimental and multisensory physical/digital work.


Please note that this course is not designed to be a practical filmmaking course with tutorials on how to develop students’ personal projects. It rather is a course which offers students the opportunity to experiment with the ideas, concepts, aesthetics and theories discussed during the sessions by applying them in the development of a small, personal project if students wish to do so. No one should feel obliged to carry out a personal project if they do not want to.

Students will be free to use any video camera (including mobile phones) and sound recording system of their choice and there is no other equipment needed.

1x Universal Credit bursary place is available for this course. Please see our bursary policy.

If you’d like to be notified about this course’s future running dates, please fill in this quick form. If you have any questions about the course, get in touch with



Alda Terracciano


Dr Alda Terracciano is an artist, academic researcher, curator and director and an expert in multisensory and participatory methodologies. Her multisensory projects include the installation Streets of... 7 cities in 7 minutes (2006-2012) exploring the ancestral memories of three migration journeys in people's everyday life; the participatory community programme Living Archaeology of the Place (2012-2013) for which she devised the Memory Session method to challenge pre-conceived notions of cultural essentialism through multisensory elicitation; and the immersive installation Zelige Door on Golborne Road (2017), which she developed with members of the Moroccan communities in West London, using the interaction between bodies, memories and digital environments as part of a communal response to the issue of gentrification.