The History of Cyberformance

3 month course of 6 sessions 

Led by- helen Varley Jamieson


Thanks to the pandemic and its impact on live events, 2020 has become the year that the world discovered
the potential of the internet as a site for live performance, connection and human interaction. Artists have,
of course, been exploring this field for as long as the internet has existed – and even longer.
Cyberformance pioneer Helen Varley Jamieson traces the roots of this emergent art form back to the
1970s and presents some of the significant artists and performances in this lineage.
Presented over six sessions, this course aims to provide a foundation for the practice and study of
cyberformance and to make visible a canon of work that is highly ephemeral.

The Six Sessions will cover: 

Introduction: contextualising cyberformance in relation to other performance and digital art disciplines. Terms and terminologies will be discussed and defined, and online resources and key texts introduced.

Back to the future: this session will look at pre-internet artistic movements that have influenced digital practices; the origins of networked art; the role of the artist in experimenting with new technologies; and the earliest documented online performances.

The evolution of cyberformance: drawing on her own experiences and work, as well as that of her collaborators and peers, Helen Varley Jamieson will trace the evolution of cyberformance from the mid-1990s alongside the development of the internet and its cultural and social impact.

The cyber-stage: this session will survey digital environments used by artists over the last three decades, including free chat software, proprietary tools, social media and purpose-built cyberformance platforms, and address the role of the artist in the creation of their tools.

Performing the pandemic: thanks to the pandemic and its impact on live events, artists and audiences are waking up to the potential of performance on the internet. What does this mean for artists – both new to the online environment and experienced – and for audiences? Where to next for cyberformance?


Helen Varley Jamieson:

Helen Varley Jamieson is a digital artist, writer, theatre practitioner and producer from Aotearoa New
Zealand. Her artistic work includes cyberformance, digital installations, playwriting and various
collaborations, often addressing social and environmental themes including disposability, waste, water
pollution, the impact of technology on our lives and the environment, and the role of women in society. In
2003 she co-founded UpStage, a unique online platform where artists collaborate in real time using digital
tools to present live online performances to global audiences (cyberformance). Helen has a long
involvement in feminist networks and the open source movement, and is the “Web Queen” of the
Magdalena Project (international network of women in contemporary theatre and performance). She has
organised numerous online festivals and events, as well as theatre and performance festivals in New
Zealand and Germany. She holds a Master of Arts in cyberformance (QUT, Australia, 2008) and a BA in
Theatre and English Literature (Otago, NZ, 1992) and is currently based in Munich, Germany.

Upon successful completion of all tasks, students can receive a Certificate of Completion.