Transmissions sound art residency

Transmissions Team
7 min readOct 14, 2021

The Transmissions sound art residency exchange fosters collaborative encounters between Norwegian and Greek sound artists and researchers, with an emphasis on remote or geographically isolated landscapes and their audible and inaudible past.


For 2020–2021, Anna Papaeti, a Greece-based researcher/practitioner focusing on the relationship between sound and trauma, especially in situations of detention, has been invited to collaborate with Maia Urstad, a Norway-based artist working at the intersection of audio and visual arts with a special interest in archival practices and obsolete technologies.

The two artists were invited to spend a week together in Greece (June 2021) and a further week together in Norway (September 2021), accompanied by Greek intermedia duo acte vide. Their joint open-ended project sets out to explore traces of aural experiences and histories associated with two very distinct, yet eerily similar locations: the unpopulated Cycladic island of Gyaros in the municipality of Syros, Greece; and the easternmost town of Norway, Vardø in Varanger peninsula.


While many centuries and miles apart, the liminal landscapes and dark histories associated with both locations resonate strangely alongside each other. Gyaros served as a place of exile already since Roman times, but more recently during the Greek civil war and Greek military junta in the 20th century. The ruins of a 1947 prison, built by the exiled prisoners themselves, still stand on the island harbor. Prisoners included pregnant women, and reports of torture and inhuman living conditions abounded, resulting in the prison’s suspension several times until its permanent closure in 1974. The island has since been used for Greek military exercises, but more recently, given the absence of human inhabitants, has become part of a large WWF campaign for wildlife conservation.


Interestingly, just as Gyaros was colloquially known among its prisoners as ‘devil’s island,’ ‘isle of death’ or ‘hell on earth,’ the area nearby Vardø in Norway was dubbed the ‘gates of hell,’ due to its harsh climate and geographical location placed in the far northeast. However, close to current Vardø city on Varangerhalvøya is the Domen mountain where most notably some of the latest witch trials in European history took place, with dozens of women burned to death during 1621–1663. The events are famously commemorated in Steilneset memorial. The city of Vardø is facing the Barents Sea, therefore perfectly located as a hub of an all year-round coastal access for an important and sustainable fishing industry which is fought for and made visible nationally by the people’s movement Kystopprøret (Coastal uprising). As Russia is a close neighbor to Vardø there has been controversy concerning the visible radar systems, most recently upgraded in 2020. The city center houses the Globus II and III, both originally developed and installed in California as a missile-detecting intelligence system, while also observing outer space.

Just as these sites or locations stand testament to the violence of othering and the horrors of past injustice, their present is caught in limbo between monumentality and silence, openness and secrecy. How can we listen out for the silenced voices that have been confined to the edges of human activity? How can the present animate the partial records of a deliberately obscured past, be they archival data or remnants of past technologies? What kind of mediations might allow for the darkest point of no return to be revisited and transformed into a place of consolation and repair?

About the artists & organizers:

Maia Urstad works at the intersection of audio and visual arts, primarily with site-specific and spatial sound installations. Technological development and communication technology are recurring themes in many of her works, often with the use of radio as a central auditory, visual, and conceptual element. These problematize the volatility of today’s technology and what traces and stories we leave behind when new inventions enter our everyday lives. Her work also tends to focus on flops, lost causes, and developments that are on the border of obsoletion. Maia was appointed as 2017 City Sound Artist of Bonn, Germany, and awarded the 2019 Rune Brynestad Memory Grant in Norway. Her sound installation “MURMUR,” initially commissioned by Borderline Festival in Greece and presented at The XIV Biennial of Media Art, Santiago de Chile (CL) 2019, was acquired by the Norwegian National Museum in 2020. Other recent solo and collaboration works of hers have been presented at Kabuso Arthouse (NO), Bergen Kunsthall (NO), Bonnhoeren (DE), Struer Tracks (DK), Lighthouse Brighton (UK), and Sonic Acts (NL). Maia works alternately with solo projects and in collaboration with other artists. She is part of the collective MÆKUR, along with Eva Rowson (UK/NO) and Anton Kats (UKR/DE), runs the radio station RUMMUR with Eva Rowson and Peter Meanwell (UK/NO), and has developed sound and light installations with Hilde Hauan (NO) since 2006. Maia was part of the international projects freq_out 2004–2017 and freq_wave (seven seas) 2020 both curated by C.M. von Hausswolff.

Anna Papaeti (PhD, King’s College, London) writes about opera, the nexus of music, sound and trauma, and the intersections of politics, ethics, and aesthetics. She held two Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowships at the University of Goettingen (FP7, 2011–2014) and at Panteion University, Athens (2017–2019, Horizon 2020) respectively. Her research has been supported by the European Commission, Onassis Foundation, Research Centre for the Humanities, and DAAD (UK). She has published widely in collected volumes and scholarly journals, and has co-edited two special issues on music in detention. She is also a research-based-art practitioner, working in sound and textual forms. She created the podcast The Undoing of Music for Museo Nacional Reina Sofía (Madrid, 2019), as well as the installations The Dark Side of the Tune for the exhibition ‘Hypnos’ at Onassis Stegi (Athens, 2016) and Néos Parthenónas for the exhibition ‘Iasis’ (Loutraki, 2019), both created with Nektarios Pappas.

acte vide (‘empty act’) is the elusive duo project of Yannis Kotsonis and Danae Stefanou. Active since 2006 as an improvisatory unit, they persistently explore noise and silence in ever-changing real-time formations, usually unrecorded, and often in ad hoc dialog with other musicians, visual artists, and directors. Past commissions include collaborations with Raed Yassin (Irtijal & Borderline 2019), Vicki Bennett (In Mute 2014), and Tarek Atoui (Locus Athens 2015), as well as live improvised soundtracks for Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (Goethe Institut Athen 2016) and early French animation films (Festival du Film Francophone 2013). The duo has appeared in numerous performances and installations in Greece, Italy, UK, and Ireland, and has participated in several international festivals (Borderline, Moving Silence, ΜΙR, Thessaloniki International Film Festival, etc.). They organize and convene improvisation and active listening workshops for children and adults in Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as residencies on sound art and site-specific sonic experimentation in the island of Syros, Greece, having hosted over 100 artists in the past seven years, including Stine Janvin & Felicity Mangan, David Toop, Graham Lambkin & Aine O’Dwyer, Michael Pisaro, Mike Cooper, and many others.

Syros Sound Meetings, located at the island of Syros, has been organizing workshops and international residencies for sound artists and researchers since 2012. Focusing particularly on field recordings and site-specific performances and installations, the initiative has hosted over 150 artists and researchers in recent years, many of whom first met in Syros and have since gone on to develop long-lasting collaborations. Syros Sound Meetings operates under the umbrella of Syros Institute, and is a member of Interfaces Network. Collaborations include both local and international partner institutions, such as the Onassis Stegi and Syros International Film Festival.

The North Norwegian Art Center (NNKS), located at Svolvær, Lofoten, is a regional center for contemporary art, comprising the entire region of Northern Norway. It carries out an extensive range of activities, curating exhibitions, commissioning works and projects by artists in the whole region and running the NNKS AiR program in the NNKS-owned building, Kunstnerhuset. NNKS organizes and owns the art biennial Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF), is an advisor for public and private organizations, distributes several artists’ grants, and initiates different discursive activities and a visual arts educational program. The NNKS AiR program has initiated artist-led thematic workshops establishing temporary communities of international, peer-to-peer platforms for learning and sharing between professional often cross-generational artists, aiming to support professional artists in their long-term processes and in-depth work. NNKS has collaborated with several partner institutions and has hosted works highlighting sound-based practices, most comprehensively with the Lofoten Sound Art Symposium which assembled international sound artists to present and exchange throughout four days and nights with live performances, talks, and sound installations.

The residency is co-organized by Syros Sound Meetings (Greece) & North Norwegian Arts Centre (Norway) and is part of the Transmissions project, supported by the EEA Grants program and the Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2014–2021. Transmissions is coordinated by ONASSIS STEGI (Greece) in partnership with Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival (Norway).