ReCNTR Lab is a a two-year multimodal research workshop for researchers interested in multimodal research methodologies. Through a concrete project, participants work on the development, experimentation, production, and distribution of their multimodal research.

Meeting four times in two years, the workshop will also bring external researchers/artists/tutors to discuss the specific stages of the life of the projects.

The workshop aims to provide a space for participants to learn from each other about the knowledge and skills necessary for doing multimodal research, with a specific focus on media production destined for audiences in the social sciences and humanities.

ReCNTR Lab is supported by the Leiden University Kiem Grants

Selected Projects of the first edition (2024-2026)

  • Frequencies of Exile (Malaz Usta)
  • Visualising surveillance in Wadi Hilweh (Ariel Caine & Rune Saugmann)
  • Forrest Memories, Archival Ecologies (Lee Douglas)
  • Forms of intelligence, meaning-making and the art of listening (Gabriel Paiuk)
  • Sentinel View (Paolo Patelli)
  • Security Vision (Francesco Ragazzi)
  • Palmscapes: On Dutch Notions of Tropicality in the Plantationocene (Hanna Rullmann)
  • ANSIBLINGS (Belit Sağ)
  • Stories for Science: changing the narrative of African conservation (Cristiana Strava and Emily Strange)
  • Mounds, Myths and Meanings (Anne Vera Veen)
  • Deep Worlds (Mark Westmoreland)

Frequencies of Exile

The project explores displacement’s emotions and effects through multimodal, artistic research, using audiovisual experiences with an aim to convey these feelings to a spectator. Questions about representation, empathy, the nature of displacement and its perception through audiovisual art are central. Through experimentation with form, editing, and sound I try to evoke a displaced person’s emotional state to deepen the understanding of the exilic experience. Starting from the diary, be it written, filmed, or photographed, I explore personal daily moments, events that reveal emotions, hopes and challenges, trying to, as a displaced researcher, connect with my surroundings, engaging the audience through observations, memories, and the immigration system. Employing various tools, from gameplay to video and poetry, the project creates a nuanced exploration of exile.

Malaz Usta is a filmmaker, a designer and a visual artist, working with film, graphics, animation, editing, and sound. He was born in Damascus, Syria. He studied TV, and Cinema in Istanbul, and he is an artistic researcher at the Netherlands Film Academy. His works deal with different issues of displacement, and ideas of belonging, identity, and home.

Visualising surveillance in Wadi Hilweh

Wadi Hilweh, a Palestinian neighborhood in the occupied East Jerusalem village of Silwan, is among the most consistently contested and fraught places in the world, sitting at the entrance to the contested holy sites. From excavations that (selectively) unearth archeological traces of Jewish life in biblical times and follow settler adventures below the current cityscape, across intense street-level surveillance, to an official Israeli imagination of the cityspace as a national park, to an airspace full of both voluntary and state-mandated restrictions and all the way to the intentional degrading of satellite images, every visual ‘factlet’ of the site is mired in conflict and settler-colonial quests for domination. This project is an effort to both trace and intimately understand the vast surveillance ecology existing in Silwan’s Wadi Hilweh, and think about the roles surveillance plays in the site. It documents the way in which surveillance functions to institute and institutionalize a cut between different bodies present in Wadi Hilweh, using a combination of mapping, 3d modeling and documentary filming to think about how visual surveillance works together with other features of the cityscape transformation, mainly tourism, the development of new tourist infrastructures, and urban jewish settlement construction in buildings across the neighborhood. It documents the effects this combination has for the Palestinian residents of the area, investigating its effects as an engine of dispossession, reality-bending, and control.

Ariel Caine is a Jerusalem-born artist and researcher. His practice centres on the intersection of spatial (three-dimensional) photography, modelling and survey technologies, and their operation within the production of cultural memories and national narratives. Rune Saugmann is researching how visual and digital dynamics reconfigures security politics and has published widely on these topics. He is interested in how videos participate in constituting security events, image-based open-source intelligence practice, art photography, lethal autonomous weapons systems, and computer vision systems in security practice.

Forrest Memories, Archival Ecologies

By the mid-20th century, both Spain and Portugal were under the grips of distinct, but parallel fascist projects that introduced violence into the push and pull of everyday life. While different in form and reach, both dictatorships were marked by imperial aspirations and colonial imaginaries that extended the effects of these authoritarian projects to overseas territories. Both the Salazar and Franco regimes embraced the implantation of Eucalyptus, a plant species first experimented with in African colonies, as a tool for rapidly industrializing the production of wood and paper pulp. Today, the deleterious ecological effects of eucalyptus trees—their harsh impact on soil and forest ecosystems, their rapid and invasive spread, and their high flammability—have sparked important social movements that not only respond to the urgency of contemporary climate crisis, but that also seek to rethink how communities relate to forests, their histories, and the changing landscapes in which they are embedded. This multimodal visual ethnography posits that the labor of reimagining forest landscapes is also a labor of memory, where narratives of resistance are key to understanding not only the proliferation of eucalyptus plantations but also opposition to them. Arguing that forest landscapes are sites for tracing and unearthing the intersections between antifascist and decolonial imaginaries both in the past and the present, the project weaves together image, sound, and narrative to explore how eucalyptus trees and the forest landscapes they inhabit can be approached as multi-sensory archives of experience, affect, and multi-species relation.

Lee Douglas is an anthropologist, curator, and filmmaker in the Department of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she serves as a Lecturer and the convenor for the MA in Visual Anthropology. Her projects traverse geographic boundaries, addressing the legacies of colonialism and fascism on the Iberian Peninsula and among its former colonies. Currently, she is developing a project focused on histories of extraction, forest ecologies, and plant memories through the history of eucalyptus and its proliferation in Spain and Portugal.

Forms of intelligence, meaning-making and the art of listening

My project will explore the articulation of heterogenous forms of sound perception and proto-linguistic mnemonic practices in the context of non-western and speculative forms of participating in the world. The project builds upon my previous elaboration of a novel concept of sound image defined as an operative node that takes place within circuits of sensorial engagement. It will explore how processes of sound image making – which entail different ways in which listening occurs – are entangled with mnemonic and meaning-making practices traceable across both music and proto-linguistic traditions.

Italian anthropologist Carlo Severi has elucidated how mnemonic practices lie at the basis of meaning-making operations in inaccurately labelled oral cultures that do not rely on the consolidation of a written language. Inspired in this work, I aim to explore how the production of sound images takes part in this process. The emergence of meaning is, along these lines, informed by a range of divergent cosmotechnics (as enunciated by Chinese philosopher Yuk Hui) and nurturing a notion of Intelligence as a process of creative adaptation to an environment (as hinted at in the work of Catherine Malabou and Monica Gagliano).

Ung Nordisk Musik 2021 (un)common ground. Plural Grounds: Engaging with The Audible med Gabriel Paiuk i Domen Foto: Tobias Nicolai for UNM Denmark

Gabriel Paiuk is a composer, sound artist and researcher. He completed his PhD project Mutable Audible – An Operative Ontology of the Sound Image in Leiden University in 2023. His work takes the form of sound installations, performative works for acoustic and electronic media and interdisciplinary collaborations. More info:

Sentinel View (working title)

In environmental health studies, the non-human indicators that alert us to a threat onset are called “sentinels”. The term comes from the military world, but originally derives from the Latin “sentire”, to feel or sense. Non-human beings have served as environmental sentinels from the beginning of the industrial revolution, as “unfree partners”, mere tools. Can you appreciate flowers as machines for extracting impressions from sensoriums across species, for drawing out specific associations, conditions, and compositions? What are the techniques and practices that produce, reveal, and interpret physical, biological, and organic traces as visualizations? How are biological processes – life and death – broken down by scientists into operational units, as data fed into predictive models and simulations? This project attempts to recognize, through ethical and aesthetic engagement, ecological sensors that discern what might be happening, and how the future makes its appearance in the present. This project looks at how life and death are already described as environmental data, captured through various modes of sensing, with a particular emphasis on imaging techniques. It also considers a series of ethic-aesthetic questions: How do we observe living beings as an audience? Do they observe us? How does the dying observe? Can this effort produce a more vivid imagination of the relational possibilities of the living?

Paolo Patelli is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Aarhus University, developing multi-modal methods as part of the Design and Aesthetics for Environmental Data project headed by Jussi Parikka. With a background in architecture, he manipulates research and artistic practice to engage with the materialities, scenes and atmospheres at the intersections of space and society, technologies and environments.

Security Vision (Working Title)

The project is an exploration into questions of technology, humanity, and cinema. Not just the act of seeing, but the deeper, intricate process of comprehension and meaning-making. Computer scientists in security tech firms which develop algorithms of computer vision for smart cities surveillance, emotion recognition or social media filters grapple with challenges reminiscent of early cinema — how might a machine, unlike a human spectator, interpret transitions like wide-angle shots to close-ups? When does a sequence start and stop making sense ? These question in turn, open to broader interrogations about the power of images: what is an image when interpreted as a set of pixels? And perhaps more importantly, as we entrust more of this capability to self-reliant systems, how do these digital eyes shape the new ways in which we are governed? The ripple effects on governance, private entities, decision-making, and the very rights of the observed citizens remain uncertain. The project seeks to illuminate these questions by engaging with debates about artificial intelligence, vision and power, presenting a fragmentary but insightful analysis of tech interwoven with society.

Francesco Ragazzi is associate professor in International Relations at Leiden University (Netherlands) and associated scholar at the Centre d’Etude sur les Conflits, Liberté et Sécurité (France). He is also co-director of ReCNTR (Leiden University’s Center on Multimodal and Audiovisual methods). His research interests include counter-radicalisation, counter-terrorism and digital surveillance. His current research project Security Vision explores the security uses of computer vision in areas such as biometric surveillance, social media content moderation and border control.

Palmscapes: On Dutch Notions of Tropicality in the Plantationocene

In 1848, Johannes Teysmann – then director of ‘s Lands Plantentuin Buitenzorg (now Bogor), the Dutch botanic garden on Java – received four seedlings of the oil palm, to be introduced and cultivated in the garden. These seedlings form the parent species to virtually all palm oil plantations that exist in Southeast Asia to this day – their genetic make-up ‘dominating its breeding stock.’ Indonesia is now the world’s largest producer of palm oil, and the industry is a leading cause for deforestation, with devastating effects on local biodiversity and people, contributing significantly to the climate crisis. This project focuses on the legacy of Dutch Colonial botanical institutions and natural historical collections in the development of knowledge systems and infrastructures that facilitated exploitation of colonised land, life, and labour. The Netherlands was a key player in the exchange of botanical material and knowledge in the global establishment of plantation economies. Through looking at the palm oil industry, it will address in particular the visual regimes that accompanied these systems, in the shape of representation, documentation, and classification. Palm trees played a central role in Western imaginaries of the tropics – as Kate Teltscher describes, “palms were a kind of literary and visual shorthand for the non-European and the exotic.” Fantasies of tropical landscapes were (and still are) paradise-like and Other, while also evoking visions of wealth and abundance. This project aims to investigate how these imaginaries – manifested through visual culture in conjunction with production of knowledge – underpinned both imperial rule and commercial exploitation. In what way did visions of tropicality help lay the foundations for the palm oil industry’s detriment to the climate as well as to human and more-than-human life – past and present?

Hanna Rullmann is a practice-based researcher and graphic designer with an interest in the
political production of nature and environmental histories. She holds an MA from the Centre for
Research Architecture and currently teaches at the Design Academy Eindhoven.


In 1978, in the Dutch towns of Veghel and Almelo, two groups of migrant women from Turkey were involved in simultaneous labour disputes. They asked their employers for collective agreements, regular work hours, higher pay, and holiday time. The labour-intensive work of plucking chicken feathers in Almelo and peeling onions in Veghel has been lost in institutional archives – only traces of these historical moments remain. The institutional archive guides the researcher towards constructing a coherent narrative. Meanwhile, the subjects of those histories voice different realities, expressed through touch, smell, jokes, movement and gossip.

belit sağ (she/they) is a visual artist, researcher and educator. Her current research project Ansisters/Ansiblings explores the female, queer, migrant political organizing, feminist solidarities and archival silences in the early period of labor migration from Turkey to the Netherlands. Research centers the unarchivable, intangible, embodied and the speculative.

Stories for Science: changing the narrative of African conservation

Our project originates from a science communication workshop we piloted in Tanzania in summer 2023, and brings together our combined expertise in environmental biology and visual anthropology with a shared interest in pedagogy, outreach, and story-telling. Our multi-modal approach is geared towards assembling a web-based platform that serves not only as a repository for documenting our journey with these workshops, insights, and experiences but also as a potential educational tool for a diverse audience. Ideally the platform would immerse any visitor into the conceptual and material landscapes that we have charted throughout this science communication initiative. It will feature interactive content, including articles, videos, and teaching resources, all designed to engage, educate, and inspire users. We also envision it as a repository that documents our trajectory (with hiccups and false-starts) and a blueprint for future projects, emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in tackling complex environmental and societal challenges.

Dr. Emily Strange is an assistant professor at Leiden University, an ecologist whose work is grounded in conservation biology, invasion ecology and ecosystem resilience. She serves as the director of the sustainable development minor in the Science Faculty an is the current chair of the Leiden Teacher’s Academy (LTA). In 2022 shae was the recepient of the Leiden Teaching Award for her work in the classroom as well as her efforts to develop science communication at Leiden and abroad. Dr. Cristiana Strava also works as an assiatant professor at Leiden University. She is a visual anthropologist with a broad interest in urban spaces, economic inequality, and the politics of planning and development regimes, with over a decade of field-experience in North Africa. She is interested in using multi-modal approaches in both teaching and research development, and currently chairs the Research MA program in Area Studies at the Humanities Faculty.

Mounds, Myths and Meanings

Mounds, myths and meanings is an experimental film that explores the different narratives that surround an archaeological site in Nicaragua. This site is covered in large stone statues, engraved rocks and earthen mounds, all of which have intrigued archaeologists for years. Microscopical images, photogrammetric scans and 3D cartography give rise to interpretations of an unknown past. With their observations mediated through digital means and advanced technological apparatuses, the scientists are striving to reach an accurate understanding of the past reality. Simultaneously stories circulate on inexplicable events related to the ruins and remnants.
The film offers a contemplative space where different ways of understanding reality can coexist. It is a poetic, philosophical and epistemological exploration of the concept of ‘truth’, with the archaeological landscape and its digital reproductions serving as a scenery for its contemplation. By lingering on the ‘magical’ and incomprehensible aspects of the techno-scientific realm, the film reflects on the conditions that distinguish truths from myths.

Anne Vera Veen is a visual artist and researcher with a background in visual anthropology and
archaeology. She applies this background in her artistic research and as a co-founder of the artists-led collective Galerie de Jaloezie, platform for film and audiovisual art.

Deep Worlds (tentative title)

Made in collaboration with artisanal gold miners in Ghana, this project explores the complicated relationship between aspiration and destruction in extractive industries. Deep Worlds is a product of the Broken Ground art-anthropology collective led by Mark Westmoreland and Nii Obodai who aim to generate different ways of looking at, listening to, and thinking about terrestrial transformations. Employing principles of spatial storytelling to expand representational engagement beyond acts of looking, Deep Worlds is envisioned as a three-part exhibition comprised of photographic, video, and VR elements. The dramaturgical flow of the exhibit aims to first introduce visitors to the miners through a series of portraits taken primarily above ground, before following them underground via participatory video, and finally arriving at a VR interactive interface. By moving through this unusual environment and performing a set of embodied gestures that approximate the labor of a miner without the presumption of being that miner, the project aims for visitors to co-create forms of intersubjective understanding uniquely related to the miners’ experience. Deep Worlds aims to shed light on the risks taken and the nuanced knowledge required to mine gold, while also showing the comradery of a tight-knit community and the playful jockeying for hierarchical leverage. As such, the Ghanaian premiere will serve as a platform for the miners to voice their concerns and priorities to an expanded set of stakeholders.

Mark Westmoreland is co-director of ReCNTR, Associate Professor of Visual Anthropology at Leiden University, and co-editor of the Writing with Light magazine for anthropological photo essays. Mark’s research tries to ‘make sense’ of political violence by exploring sites where embodied practices and media aesthetics interface. He is currently developing a collaborative research agenda dedicated to attending to broken landscapes.

Back To Top