State of Darkness meeting diary 2022

Diary for the Fall 2022 work-in-progress.

State of Darkness (SOD II; working title)

Image: Team meeting with the script writer Eeva R. Tikka, the designer o f the performative scenography Tanja Bastamow, and Pia Tikka, discussing the responses of the artificial character to the changes in the VR world.

Images: Enactive Virtuality team planning session with Victor Pardinho, consultant and CEO from the start-up Sense of Space, spring 2022

Image by Pia Tikka. Enactive virtuality team discussing the biofeedback Ilkka Kosunen) between different adaptive elements in the sound world (Matias Harju), scenography (Tanja Bastamow) and character design (Ats Kurvet).

Activities at the sTARTUp Day 2022

Pia Tikka, and Max Schich, the head of CUDAN (image) were invited by ETAg to participate in the SpeedDating with industry and start-ups

sTARTUp Day 2022

Wednesday 24. August at 09:00 – Friday 26. August at 18:00 EEST

The University of Tartu Academic Sports Club • Ujula 4A, 51008 Tartu, Tartu maakond

Images from Tartu event by Julii Selianko.


Symposium at ICON International conference of Cognitive neuroscience May 2022

International Conference of Cognitive Neuroscience. May,18th-22nd, 2022

Pia Tikka: Organiser of  Neurocinematics symposium at the ICON International conference of Cognitive neuroscience May 21

Speakers: Clare Grall, Uri Hasson, Heini Saarimäki, Pia Tikka

Panelist: “Beyond Matter” at Tallinn Art Hall Nov 19


Invited panelist: “Beyond Matter” at Tallinn Art Hall Nov 19

A panel session organised in the connection of an installation within the framework of the international project Beyond Matter – “Summoning Ghosts – Past Exhibitions as Digital Experiences.” The installation is created at ZKM by Commonplace Studio and will be on display in the main building of the Tallinn Art Hall, between November 10 – January 15th.

The discussion will be recorded and made available on the Beyond Matter website.

Unio Mystica by Helen Kaplinsky at Tallinn Art Hall Oct 26

26.10 at Niguliste Museum, Tallinn

Unio Mystica: Medieval women’s visions and the virtual imagination

Still from ‘Tragodia’ VR play (2019) by Tai Shani. 30 minutes, with original soundtrack by Maxwell Sterling. Commissioned by Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Jindřich Chalupecký society, and Graz Kunstverein.

The storytelling event ‘Unio Mystica’ concludes the two-month residency research of contemporary art curator Helen Kaplinsky at Tallinn Art Hall for international project Beyond Matter, exploring the virtual technological and mystical visions of women.

17.00 – Intro by curator Helen Kaplinsky at St Catherine’s Friary
17.10 – Anu Mänd is an Art Historian focusing on gender, death, and animal symbolism in the late medieval Baltic region. She will begin by taking us on a tour of the oldest known Estonian woman’s gravestone. At Niguliste museum we will discuss the experiences of poor women and their children – how could the underprivileged prepare their souls for death?
17.45 – Artist Dominika Trapp will read from a hand-written scroll providing an over-view of ten years of her art practice against a backdrop of autobiographical ruminations – coming of age as a young woman in the Hungarian countryside, discomforts with contemporary feminism and her commitment to somatic intelligence, influenced of mystic and philosopher Simone Weil.
18.00 – Artist and conservationist Olesja Katšanovskaja-Münd will present her reconstruction of a rare and deteriorated 15th century painting – ‘The vision of St. Emerentia’. This will be followed by a somatic exercise, guiding a connection between the trinity of visual stimuli, inner feelings and bodily expression.
18.30 – VR screening of ‘Tragodía’ (2019) by artist Tai Shani. Tragodía is a VR play written about three generations of women in the artist’s family and their nonhuman kin. The viewer embodies the avatar of the Ghost Child with each family members’ colossal head orbiting just out of reach. The work could be understood as a mystical vision of undefinable states of being that emerge during grief.

The residency is part of the large-scale cooperation project BEYOND MATTER – Cultural Heritage on the Verge of Virtual Reality, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. It is dedicated to novel, digital approaches to exhibition revival, documentation, and dissemination, as well as the artistic, curatorial and museological development of the opportunities presented by virtual representation.

More information behind this link

The 8th ECREA conference – talk “Addressing loneliness by means of enacted co-presence in XR”, 6-9 September 2021

New dates for the 8th ECREA conference: 6-9 September 2021

Dear ECC 2020 conference applicants, dear ECREA members,

We would like to inform you that in consultation with the Local Organising Committee, the ECREA Executive Board has approved new dates for the 8th European Communication Conference: 6-9 September 2021. The conference was scheduled for 2-5 October 2020 but we had to make the uneasy decision to postpone. The different timelines and strategies of gradual withdrawal of pandemic prevention measures adopted by individual European countries have made it impossible to organise the event according to our standards of academic quality and hospitality.

The conference calendar will be revised and new important dates will be announced in the conference website.

We are looking forward to seeing you in Braga from the 6 to 9 September 2021.

The submission: ECC20-1152 title Addressing loneliness by means of enacted co-presence in XR  has been accepted to the 8th European Communication Conference to be held in Braga, Portugal, October 2-5, 2020.

Braga, Portugal ECC Abstract submitted tikka et al.

TITLE: Addressing loneliness by means of enacted co-presence in XR 


Pia Tikka1, Gholamreza Anbarjafari Shahab2, Doron Friedman3, Sergio Escalera4, Mauri Kaipainen5.
1University of Tallinn / BFM / MEDIT, Enactive Virtuality Lab, Tallinn, Estonia.
2University of Tartu, Intelligent Computer Vision iCV Lab, Tartu, Estonia.
3The Interdsiciplinary Center Herzliya, Sammy Ofer School of Communications / Advanced Reality Lab, Herzliya, Israel.
4University of Barcelona, Dept. Mathematics and Informatics / Computer Vision Center, Barcelona, Spain.
5Perspicamus Ltd, Company, Helsinki, Finland.

The very nature of the human species is social. Loneliness correlates with mental and physical ill-being within, for instance, the elderly, or people with disabilities, or other conditions causing reduced life-environment. Simultaneously, an increasing trend in the European lifestyle is to outsource taking care of such members of family into the hands of professional social and medical care. Yet, in the light of recent studies, loneliness can be considered a fatal condition. Loneliness reduces the ability to improve one’s life-conditions, motivation of taking care of one’s health, and affects negatively the functions of society. As an indication of the urgency of the matter, UK has even appointed a Minister of Loneliness. The issue dictates the need to figure out all plausible ways to fight loneliness. While human company must be the primary solution, other solutions must be considered to provide socio-emotional comfort to those who suffer of the lack of human accompaniment.We propose storytelling and narratives as the key component of satisfactory social interaction. Stories told provide supportive structures for maintaining one’s identity and connectivity as part of the world. This talk takes a look at the intriguing question, whether advanced audiovisual technologies which allow immersive interactive experiences within virtual narratives, in some form, might contribute to relieve this sore issue. To emphasize, immersive technologies, here, VR/AR/XR, cannot as such provide fully satisfactory solutions for complex human issue of loneliness. However, as a range of solutions for socially assistive robot technologies have already been proposed by others, it may be appropriate to balance the so far technology-dominated discussion with the deeply human approach of storytelling. The talk outlines efforts to combine the art of interactive audiovisual storytelling with already existing advanced technologies to explore the interconnections between loneliness and technology. It discusses empowering solutions to loneliness, while being mindful of technological determinism.

ECREA’s Executive Board and the Local Organizing Committee of the 2020 ECC in Braga are closely monitoring the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic as we are concerned about the health and well-being of our members and conference attendees. The conference dates (2-5 October, 2020) remain unchanged at the present time but we wish to announce changes to the deadline for the acceptance of invitations and the registration period to take account of this period of uncertainty and give you more time to make decisions about attendance. We would greatly appreciate it if you could log in through the link below and confirm or decline the presentation of your paper at the conference. The new deadline for your decision is June 15, 2020. Registration will open on June 15, 2020 and the early bird registration will be correspondingly extended. To reiterate, our intention at present is to go ahead with the physical conference in October but we will review this on an ongoing basis as well as engaging in contingency planning. We are not contemplating a virtual conference as an alternative to the physical conference.

Please take care of yourself, your family and your loved ones. Further updates will follow in due course.




A talk at SCSMI conference June 9-12, 2021

Title: Dialogue between neuro- and pheno-dynamics of film viewing experience

Tikka, Pia and Rosic, Jelena

One of the main questions put forward by neuro-phenomenology (Varela 1996) is how to bring into a frui\ul dialogue the two to allegedly incommensurable domains of science, namely the one unraveling neural functions of being-human in the world (neuro-dynamics), and that describing the experience of being-human in the world (pheno-dynamics). As it seems in the light of current literature, the main challenge lies in the identification of the mutual constraints (ibid.), this is, the domain-specific conditions on both fields that would allow for reciprocally fruitul dialogue. By discussing phenomenologically informed reflections and corresponding findings of a neurocinematic study we aim to apply such an interdisciplinary dialogue in the domain of film studies. We argue that neurocinematic methods can be optimised with specifications provided by phenomenological inquiry.

1. Greene, B. (1999). The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company.
2. Kauttonen, J., Hlushchuk, Y., Jääskeläinen, I. P., & Tikka, P. (2018). Brain mechanisms underlying cue-based memorizing during free viewing of movie Memento. NeuroImage, 172, 313–325.
3. Memento (2000). Directed by Christopher Nolan. US: Summit Entertainment & Team Todd.
4. Petitmengin C. (2006). Describing one’s subjective experience in the second person: An interview method for the science of consciousness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 5(3-4), 229–269.
5. Varela, Francisco J. (1996). Neurophenomenology. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3(4), 330–349.


Accepted to be presented. Cancelled by PT.

Panel presentation at the NECS Conference Palermo, June. 2021

NECS Conference Palermo June 2021

Due to the persistent uncertainty caused by the world-wide pandemic, the NECS Steering Committee, in consultation with the NECS 2021 Local Organizing Team, has decided to hold the 2021 Palermo conference entirely online from June 7th to 13th.


Sergei Eisenstein: New Discoveries and Transitions

The panel re-assesses Eisenstein’s legacy in the twenty-first century and the continuing relevance of his theory and practice to contemporary screen studies. The panel comprises four papers, by Ian Christie, Ana Hedberg Olenina, Pia Tikka and Julia Vassilieva that discuss, drawing on recently discovered archival evidence, little-known aspects of Eisenstein’s early work – from his interest in eccentric aesthetics of FEKS group led by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg to his collaboration with Russian psychologists Alexander Luria and Lev Vygotsky in the areas ranging from hypnosis to psychotechnics. The panel demonstrates not only that contemporary preoccupations with media archaeology, immersive cinema, and neuroscience can open up new interpretations of Eisenstein’s work, but also that nature of Eisenstein’s prescient experimental thought can itself contribute to advancing these fields of contemporary research. It offers imaginative contributions to the study of one of the giants of cinema as it engages with new theoretical perspectives and methodological advances in both film studies and the humanities at large.

  1. Ian Christie: Eisenstein and the early Petrograd avant-garde
  2. Ana Hedberg Olenina: The Spectator’s Sensate Body: Eisenstein’s Plans for Empirical Tests of Film Impact
  3. Julia Vassilieva: Eisenstein and Hypnosis
  4. Pia Tikka: Virtual reality re-enactment of Luria-Eisenstein’s experiment on expressive movement



  1. Ian Christie

Eisenstein and the early Petrograd avant-garde

In 1922, Sergei Eisenstein returned to Petrograd, where he had spent the formative years of his youth, and came into contact with the FEKS group led by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg. His collaboration with the FEKS member Sergei Yutkevich on a satirical pantomime Columbine’s Garter foreshadowed further experiments with ‘the montage of attractions’ back in Moscow, which have received proportionally greater attention. This paper considers the formative influences of Petrograd’s early 1920s avant-garde on Eisenstein, and particularly the relationship between FEKS’ turn towards film with The Adventures of Oktyabrina in 1924 and Eisenstein’s Glumov’s Diary in 1923, and their common debt to the pre-revolutionary popular cult of movie serials and Fantômas.


Naum Kleiman, Eisenstein on Paper: Graphic Works by the Master of Film (Thames & Hudson, 2017).

BIO: Ian Christie is Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College, London University, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written and edited books on Powell and Pressburger, Russian cinema, and Scorsese and Gilliam, and has contributed to exhibitions ranging from Film as Film (Hayward, 1979) and Eisenstein: Life and Art(Hayward, 1988) to Modernism: Designing a New World (V&A, 2006) and Revolution: Russian Art 1917-32 (Royal Academy, 2017). He was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University in 2006, and President of Europa Cinemas 2011-13. His books include Arrows of Desire: The Films of Powell and Pressburger (1985/93), Eisenstein Rediscovered (1993),The Last Machine: Early Cinema and the Birth of the Modern World (1994), A Matter of Life and Death (2000). The Art of Film: John Box and Production Design (2009), Audiences (2012), Doctor Zhivago (2015), Robert Paul and the Origins of British Cinema (2019), and a forthcoming collection, co-edited with Julia Vassilieva, The Eisenstein Universe.


  1. Ana Hedberg Olenina

The Spectator’s Sensate Body: Eisenstein’s Plans for Empirical Tests of Film Impact

It is a little-known fact of Eisenstein’s biography, but in late 1928 he and his students at the State School of Cinematography were preparing to launch a study of spectator responses in collaboration with the Moscow Polytechnic Museum’s Laboratory for the Study of Masses and Mass Psychotechnics. Eisenstein planned to inquire into the nature of film stimuli (the sensory properties of film sequences, as well as their sociological resonance) in addition to evaluating bodily reactions of audience members. Based on surviving archival materials, this paper examines the proposed methodology and theoretical underpinning of this project. In contextualizing Eisenstein’s use of reflexological terms and his references to reflexology, William James, and Jean D’Udine, I discuss discourses on “collective reflexology,” “emotional contagion,” “dynamogenic” properties of certain visual stimuli, as well as imitative and rhythmical impulses of the body. My overall goal is to trace the roots of Eisenstein’s conceptual framework in turn-of-the-century psychology and psychophysiology, as well as to evaluate the status of the proposed experiments in the filmmaker’s theory of spectatorship as an embodied and enactive experience.


William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902).

Jean d’Udine, L’Art et le Geste (in French; Paris: F. Alcan, 1910).

BIO: Ana Hedberg Olenina is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Media Studies at Arizona State University. Her main research focus is the Soviet avant-garde, while her broader interests lie at the juncture of early film history and media theory, with an emphasis on historical configurations of sensory experience, emotional response, embodiment, and immersive environments. Her book “Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Modern Literature and Film” (Oxford University Press, 2020) explores conceptions of expressive movement and empathy, which emerged within the dialog between psychology and the arts in the first quarter of the 20th century. Her essays on cinematic gestures, Soviet avant-garde performance, modern dance, and Russian Formalism have appeared in Film History, Discourse, Kinovedcheskie zapiski, Apparatus, Frontiers in Psychology: Performance Science, and several anthologies in Russia and the USA.


  1. Julia Vassilieva

Eisenstein and Hypnosis

It has often recently realised that Eisenstein learned the skills of montage while re-cutting Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) for its Russian release under the guidance of Esfir Shub in 1924, prior to making his first feature (The Strike) later that same year. His entry into cinema was marked thus by his encounter with hypnosis, as Dr Mabuse reinforced both the representation of hypnosis on screen as one of the key motives in early cinema and the understanding of hypnosis as a metaphor for the cinematic dispositive – a prominent trope in early film theory. In the coming years Eisenstein would be exposed to hypnosis as an experimental and therapeutic method in psychology, through his joint work with Lev Vygotsky, Alexander Luria and Yuri Kannabich, whose use of hypnosis was informed by the influential research of Vladimir Bekhterev.  Eisenstein’s notes in his diary in the late 1920s demonstrate that he was getting increasingly interested in the possibility of recreating some aspects of hypnotic effects in cinema, as far as they reinforce the physical and sensorial impact of film on the body of the spectator. By the time Eisenstein would come to work on Method, he subsumed hypnosis within his overarching paradigm of sensuous thought. Yet, at the same time the phenomenon of hypnosis was in the background of two crises that Eisenstein experienced in relation to cinema: the early one, when he came to see art as providing a fictive substitute for life, and the later one, when he became horrified of the possibility of regress inherent in art form. Hypnosis therefore represents one of those focal points where tensions in Eisenstein’s theorising are revealed particularly strongly: such as the tension between modern and archaic, human and animal, spectatorial freedom and directorial control. My paper explores the productive and generative character of these tensions by placing Eisenstein’s views on hypnosis into a dialogue with contemporary work by Raymond Bellour, Ruggero Eugeni and Andreas Killen.


Raymond Bellour, “From Hypnosis to Animals.” Cinema Journal 53, no. 3 (2014): 1-24.

Ruggero Eugeni, “Imaginary screens: the hypnotic gesture and early film” in Craig Buckley, Rüdiger Campe, Francesco Casetti (eds.), Screen Genealogies. From Optical Device to Environmental Medium, (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2019, pp. 269-291).

Andreas Killen, Homo Cinematicus: Science, Motion Pictures, and the Making of Modern Germany (University of Pennsylvania Press 2017).

BIO: Julia Vassilieva is senior research fellow and lecturer at Monash University. Her research interests include the intersection of cinema, psychology and neuroscience; narrative theory; early Russian cinema and film theory; and, specifically, theory and practice of Sergei Eisenstein. She is currently completing a monograph Cinema and the Brain: the Eisenstein-Vygotsky-Luria Collaboration. Her two co-edited volumes – The Eisenstein’s Universe (with Ian Christie, Bloomsbury) and Beyond the Essay Film: Subjectivity, Textuality, Technology (with Deane Williams, Amsterdam UP) are forthcoming. She is an author of Narrative Psychology, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016 and co-editor of After Taste: Cultural Value and the Moving Image, Routledge, 2013. Her publications also appeared in Camera Obscura, Film-Philosophy, Film Criticism, Projections, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Screening the Past, Critical Arts, Kinovedcheskie Zapiski, Rouge, Lola, Senses of Cinema, History of Psychology and a number of edited collections.



Pia Tikka

Virtual reality re-enactment of Luria-Eisenstein’s experiment on expressive movement.

This talk discusses the re-enactment in a virtual reality (VR) setup of the psychological experiment that Alexander Luria and Sergei Eisenstein conducted almost a century ago, in 1928. In this experiment, as discussed by Julia Vassilieva in the previous paper, hypnosis was applied to subjects in order to study the connection between sensorimotor behavior (expressive movement) and mental states.

The talk has several goals:

(1) To highlight the ‘parachronic’ nature of theoretical discoveries: As proposed in my Enactive Cinema: Simulatorium Eisensteinense (2008), theoretical ideas have the tendency to re-emerge in cycles, adapted to the current context. From this perspective, I argue that the embodied mind approach has its roots in the theoretical ideas of historical practitioners in arts and sciences, such as Luria and Eisenstein.

(2) To address significant paradigmatic overlaps: The re-enacted experiment allows identification of common grounds between the psychological ideas in the Luria-Eisenstein’s experiment and the neuro-phenomenological approach introduced by Francisco Varela. Furthermore, it allows to articulate connection between Raymond Bellour’s understanding of the hypnotic nature of cinematic experience and the experience of immersion in virtual reality settings.

(3) To reconfigure the practical set-up of the Luria-Eisenstein experiment by means of VR with a focus on comparing the methodologies of producing immersive experience in the beginning of 20th century and today.

In sum, following the original protocol reported by Luria and Eisenstein, the re-enacted experiment extrapolates the theoretical ideas of Eisenstein-Luria collaboration onto the 21st century art-science context.


Pia Tikka, Enactive Cinema: Simulatorium Eisensteinense, (Aalto UP, 2008).

Francisco Varela, (with Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, (MIT Press, 1991/2017).

BIO: Pia Tikka is a professional filmmaker and EU Mobilitas Research Professor at the MEDIT Centre of Excellence, Tallinn University. She holds the honorary title of Adjunct Professor of New Narrative Media at the University of Lapland, and is a former Director of Crucible Studio, Department of Media, Aalto University (2014-2017). As a core member of neurocinematics research project aivoAALTO at the Aalto University (2010-2014), she founded her NeuroCine research group to study the neural basis of storytelling. She has published on the topics of enactive media, narrative complex systems, neurocinematics, and written the book “Enactive Cinema: Simulatorium Eisensteinense (2008). Her filmography includes international film productions as well as two feature films and interactive films she has directed. A Fellow of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image and a member of European Film Academy, she currently leads her Enactive Virtuality Lab at Tallinn University.