The Flight of the Sea Swallow

The  project is exploring the possibilities for networked performances using database, audio and visual online connection and the connection of places and physical action by the use of sensor data. This work by blackhole-factory connects 4 performers, 3 performance spaces on 3 continents as a collaboration with Roger Mills in Sydney and Marc Sloan in New York.

The Sea Swallow Project is a telematic audiovisual improvised performance incorporating live data streams of location, climate and physical movement from networked sensors in Sydney, Braunschweig and New York. Capturing distributed moments in time as source material for live improvised performances,  each performer is contributing site specific sound, images and text as well as climatic data such as temperature and humidity to the database. The networked ensemble moves through the telematic spherical environment containing data from various locations via GPS coordinates by manipulating 3D hands viewable on screen. This triggers a collage of audiovisual content for improvised interpretation and response as the ensemble navigates through them. Audiences at the performance space and online experience the networked performers moving throughout the 3D tele-environment in improvised performances responding to sound objects as they appear and cluster.

The title of this work refers to an episode of Bruce Chatwin´s book „The Songlines“ where he mentiones an old tramp who tells him about the arctic tern or sea swallow. This bird, in need to have as much daylight as possible for hunting food, flies every year from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again. And this idea of a need to travel accompanied the blackhole-factory´s working style since years.

With the SeaSwallow Project our attempt was to discuss about migratory restlessnes as a driving element in the personal histories. A starting point to talk about places and identity, about intercultural encounters, migration and the inherent social and political aspects. For the performance we have set up a  multi modal platform to exchange in realtime from three different continents in different timezones. This construction gives us the possibility to discuss, to play live improvised music and to evoke a collection of fieldrecordings, sounds and visuals from a shared database which contains memories of the performers. The data base, being projected as a virtual globe contains places positioned by the help of GPS data, which are visualised as spheres to which we can fly. The spheres contain the collection of audiovisual information, appearing when we come close. During the flights through the virtual 3D world a collage of  the stored contents arises as an improvised interpretation.

The performers are connected via eJamming, an online platform to play music in realtime  together. Beyond that they use MAX/MSP network patches written by Martin Slawig to exchange sensor data and video.
Further details about the network we set up can be found here.

The first stage to this performance has been shown in January 2014. Until now The Flight of the Sea Swallow has been played like an ongoing process of discussions and improvisations showing us a big potential of further development for this model of networked collaboration.

performance April 26 2014 video 45:27 @vimeo
feature of the project by Mirko Heinemann video 12:12 @vimeo
SeaSwallow flight test video 7:14 min @vimeo
SeaSwallow autopilot navigation video 11:55 min @vimeo

The SeaSwallow sensor kit: Arduino with sensors for light, temperature and motion. Each collaborator is using one sending the data over the internet to the performance space.

The stage at Studio_A

Flight of the Seaswallow
Foto: Angelika Stück

Marc Sloan: live in New York – guitars and electronics, navigation
Roger Mills: live in Sydney – processed trumpets, navigation
Elke Utermöhlen: live in Braunschweig – processed voice, navigation
Martin Slawig: live in Braunschweig – processed percussion, navigation
Martin Kroll: documentation
Mirko Heinemann: journalist

First cycle Jan 24/25 2014 main performance space at Studio_A, Kunstmühle Braunschweig Time schedule: Performances: Jan 24 – 9 pm CET Jan 25 – 3 am CET Jan 25 – 9 am CET Jan 25 – 3 pm CET Jan 25 – 9 pm CET Autopilot navigation in between the performances 25 hours Internet LiveStream of the performances and the autopilot at

Second cycle April 25/ 26 8pm CET, main performance space at Studio_A, Kunstmühle Braunschweig and LiveStream at


Leonardo – MIT Press Journal Vol 49: Flight of the Sea Swallow: A Crossreality Telematic Performance by Roger Mils, Elke Utermöhlen and Martin Slawig
article and podcast by Mirko Heinemann @Deutschlandfunk/Corso
Kult-Tour Braunschweig german version
Kult-Tour Braunschweig english version
full length video of the performance April 26 2014
feature of the project by Mirko Heinemann
report about the project in German by Mirko Heinemann

‘Der Flug der Seeschwalbe/ The Flight Of The SeaSwallow’ was funded by Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur, Stiftung Niedersachsen, Stiftung Braunschweigischer Kulturbesitz, Stadt Braunschweig

Produced by blackhole-factory 2013