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Information Experience Design (MA)

Amy Cutler

Amy Cutler is a live cinema artist and experimental composer, writer, and performer who previously trained as a geographer (PhD) specialising in experimental landscape studies. Her re-training as a designer at the RCA focused on new forms of audience design for environmental media in the Anthropocene, from innovative analogue-digital AV collaboration to the creation of augmented, reactive and extended reality (XR) spaces.

As part of her training she produced a number of large shows and installations, including Luciérnaga in Mexico City (2023), an outdoor projection trail at Enclave Land Art in Valencia (2022), and The Live Earth Show at Glastonbury Festival (2022). She also worked to brief on team projects in science communication, from bioinformatics system design to landscape consultation and species-based strategy games.

Her public installations are interactive, and include projects such as a bespoke cinema screen created with thermochromic paint - which remains opaque except in the areas activated by audience handprints - and a sound-work for the Millennium Bridge triggered by footstep detection sensors, in which the composition is shaped in real time into new forms of reverb and tremolo by the meeting point of the tidetables, the river's changing chemical composition, and the biomechanics of unconscious crowd synchronisation.

Cutler also draws on her teaching experience in a range of fields, including Game Design (LSBU), Anthropology (UCL), Sound Design (Greenwich), Visual Cultures (Goldsmiths), Art and Science (Central St Martins), Geography (RHUL), and English (University of Leeds). This transdisciplinarity is a key part of her approach to IED.


Cinematic culture is dangerous, the artist filmmaker Rosa Barba has observed, because of the way ‘it rooms and schools you'. It comes with certain customs of spectatorship – such as a rectilinear frontal screen and an audience in a darkened space – which limit its possibilities. In contemporary screenings, the mediation of climate crisis must always function both because-of and in-spite-of its creatively strained relations to these acts of audience design: the arrayed chairs; the forward-facing eyes; the rectangular horizons.

Working with a range of tools, from 16mm analogue film to AI generation to anaglyph (red/cyan) screening, Cutler creates new processes for configuring the spaces of cinema and what it might host. After all, there is no longer any charmed circle from which a seated, immune audience can sit and watch the spectacle of climate malfunction unfold.

Challenging passive mainstream models of 'ambience' and 'immersiveness', she works with disciplines from biology to architecture to choreography, and draws from alternative histories, from cinema as flea pit to cinema as phantasmagoria, to create new designs which explore the ways we are ‘at stake in each other’s company’ (Thom van Dooren).

Volta Abismal poster
Projection beam
A photograph of an outdoor film screening in neon green
The artist performing with a firefly headdress

Luciérnaga at Volta Abismal

The Volta Abismal festival in 2023 brought together Mexican and British artists working with experimental music, bioacoustics, sound art, electronic art, soundscapes and techno-scientific research. Amy’s live cinema work explored the mediation of ‘living’ biodiversity data in cinematic performance and spatial interactive sound design. By title, Luciérnaga refers to a specific, much-filmed eco-tourism site – Mexico’s Nanacamilpa firefly forest – as well as to the social history of light trails and light shows as a form of social collectivity, and theories which root the luminescent beginnings of cinema in the study of specific insect specimens and their demonstration of the more-than-human powers of networked connectivity (cf. Jussi Parikka, Insect Media). The audience participation of Amy's work was also inspired by experiments with firefly synchronisation in Thailand and by the coding of Nicky Case's work on fireflies, clock time, and their impact on their neighbours. A sample video from the festival, with events attended by around 600 people at a time.

An image showing an uncanny horizon
Launch Project


Amy Cutler and Ella Finer's three month show Experiments in Company at KELDER Gallery, London, 2022-2023, imagined new cinematic almanacs for a climate undone. The details on the show and its events, salons, and gatherings are above; below is an extract from a section of the work, in response to a specific anniversary announced in Environ. Sci. Technol. in Aug 2022: the moment at which all rainwater, everywhere on earth, had become irreversibly unsafe to drink. This original article was called 'Outside the Safe Operating Space of a New Planetary Boundary for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)'; the artists adapted this title to create new collaborative dialogues between their work in KELDER's experimental space. The extract below draws on Cutler's field trip at around 4 a.m. to a uranium mine at low tide.


Cinema as the Dream Palace of De-Extinction

Supported by the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB), Amy Cutler's SPECIES PIRACY is a collaboration with de-extinction researcher Dr. Sarah Bezan. Inspired by David Jaclin's formulations of de-extinction as a form of 'dreaming' and a 'cinematic chimera', Cutler's new live cinema opera involves the collaboration of 16mm projectionist and filmmaker James Holcombe and the tape loop processes of Howlround, aka Robin the Fog. Together, they will create a live performance using a fog screen, AI generation, and various stages of live real-time media transfer to consider the act of 'pirating' and re-creating lost species. This will be accompanied by an essay by Cutler, Bezan, and collaborating researchers. (A sample video of the custom made glitch video processor, which will be used to manipulate and hack a live nature documentary broadcast as it airs, is above.)

A black hole diagram
Black hole reading

Black Hole Cinema

A projection installation of 7-layered moving cinema holographs, created with black chiffon and black iridized glass, created for archival film and sound essay. How do we learn to exploit the least exploitable thing in the known and unknown universe? This exhibit considered cinema in relation to these shimmering myths of extraction, with the black hole as their ultimate disappearing point. 

This was inspired by Dr. Adam Brown’s research on black hole extractivism and the Penrose Process, also drew on a key recent hypothesis about black holes: that they “are hiding movies of the Universe in their glowing rings”. Explained in the words of radio astronomer Michael Johnson: ‘neglecting opacity, a telescope with the perfect resolution directed at a black hole observes an infinite number of nested images of the universe’. A black hole is the opposite of cinema, traditionally a science of light, stargazing, and bringing-to-life: but it may still itself be the universe’s cinematic archive!

A short essay on this work as a corrective to the anthropocentrism of astro-particle physics is available here, along with the full original sound design.

A silhouette of a person standing in front of an outdoor film projection cast onto a landscape.


As part of the international Enclave Land Art residency in Valencia, Cutler produced an outdoor cinema work for L'Alineació Solar de la Foradada, or Foradà, in La Vall de Gallinera. This is an astronomical phenomenon in which the sun shines through a perforation in the rock at the top of Penya Foradà. These rays of light penetrate the arch in such a way that they illuminate the site of an ancient monastery in the valley. On two days of the year, valley residents gather at the southernmost peak for a festival celebrating the rare event of this alignment of light.

This was used as a starting point for a project exploring the ways in which light itself acts as a local participant in the environment of film. A fuller account of the project and the work of the other six international artists is available here, remixing ideas of land art, camera obscura, and the traditions of son et lumière spectacles, which began at chateaus in the Val de Loire. This site-sensitive projection mapping work also explores how cinema, as a science of light, can act as a local observatory for the gathering of environmental neighbours – as well as exploring bigger ideas about our shared existence as communities linked to solar states and solar futures as well as unique sheltered spaces (or enclaves). A video interview about the process is below.

a translucent pink cassette tape printed with an illustration and the words Sister Time
A variety of tapes

As part of the process of public installations, Cutler creates her own soundwork, which she has released as albums on a number of labels. Most recently, SISTER TIME was released in 2023 as a digital album and pro-dubbed cassette tape available with gold or pink shells. A full page review is in the July 2023 issue of The Wire here, and an online review is available here. Instruments in the most recent set up include deconstructed Westminster clock chimes, tape loops, watchmakers' mallets, and ticking mechanisms. Give the album a spin here.

A poster for the exhibition
A poster for the exhibition

Fairy Light at Leeds Central Library (2022) and The Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic (2023)

Our identification with fairies has always been through the trickery of media, even before cinema existed. Elizabeth Dearnley, Tamsin Dearnley and Amy Cutler created this two month long immersive, interactive installation inspired by the Cottingley fairy photographs at Leeds Central Library. Timed to coincide with the centenary of Conan Doyle’s The Coming of the Fairies, the installation brought to life the shared bedroom of Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, combining projections, optical illusions, an interactive soundscape, and set design. It asked questions about belief, media trickery, and scientific rationalism, inviting visitors to take another look at an apparently familiar tale. As part of this exhibition, the artists co-convened a series of events, including round tables with The Media of Mediumship group based at the Science Museum and the University of Stirling. The installation is taking place again in 2023 for two months (21st July - 23rd September) at The Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic, in Todmorden, Yorkshire. Further information on Cutler's hand-painted and modified 16mm works and the links to histories of fairy lights, electricity in performance, hoax media, and shared spectacles of collective incandescence is available here.

A seated audience watching a film with 3D glasses

Lazarus Taxa at Braziers International Film Festival

Bugs in the Barn! Deviant studies of the nature documentary via magic lantern optics, Super 8 pedagogies, rural 3D anaglyphs, and scratch video. ‘Lazarus Taxa’ is a term for species which disappeared from the record and were presumed extinct, but then sprang back to life. From ‘crocodile tears’ to synthetic birds and machine learning glitches, this international programme of short-form artist cinema explores the ways “species” of obsolete cinema can be revived, rediscovered, and reinterpreted. Followed by a live 16mm film reel performance by the audio-visual duo RAVINE/MACHINE (Amy Cutler and Scott Pitkethly) inspired by fireflies and water insects, working with hacked music boxes and projectors.

Braziers International Film Festival is an independent film festival in the unique setting of Braziers park estate and residential community. Films are projected to audiences inside a large, historic 17th-century barn adapted for public performances, in addition to the Gothic manor house and custom-built outdoor structures.