The BlackBox project and its Lab 

Carla Fernandes


In this talk I will be describing both the final results of the BlackBox project and the future research lines of its current Lab, dedicated to practice-based research on contemporary performance, improvisation and cognition.

The BlackBox Lab has been established at NOVA University Lisbon as a natural sequence of the BlackBox project, funded by the ERC, and which I have led between 2014 and 2020. This project has aimed at developing hybrid models to show “the invisible behind the curtains” through a web-based platform dedicated to the digital visualization and documentation of compositional processes by contemporary performing artists with a focus on dance and theatre. The current platform includes distinct representations of the implicit knowledge in performing practices of 3 invited choreographers, while applying novel visualization technologies to support them. As an Arts&Cognition Lab, the BlackBox team aims at the analysis of our invited artists’ signature conceptual structures, by crossing the empirical insights of those contemporary creators with research theories from Multimodal Communication (Human Interaction, Gesture Studies, Cognitive Science), Performance Studies and Computer Vision.

In the Lab we do our best to create digital visualizations that may possibly translate profoundly complex and subjective processes of human creativity, but we keep our focus on the embodied and unique experience of the vibrant encounters between choreographers, performers and audiences, which can only happen live...


Carla Fernandes is currently Principal Investigator and invited Professor at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, FCSH, where she is Head of the ‘BlackBox – Arts & Cognition Lab’, funded by the European Research Council, since 2014. She directs the Performance and Cognition group at ICNOVA since 2021. Her research focus is in the intersection of multimodal communication, social cognition, new media and the performing arts, from cognitive and ethnographic perspectives. She has been designing and leading interdisciplinary research projects for over 12 years in the areas of cognitive linguistics, creativity, multimodal communication, non-verbal behaviour, video annotation, and the creation of digital platforms to document intangible cultural heritage, such as contemporary dance and performance. She also directs the ‘TKB project’ (A Transmedia Knowledge-Base for performing arts) since 2010, funded by FCT Portugal.