The distance between the staircase and the sky

2022     7’ stereo

The film’s imagery is created through a process combining walking, performance, and photogrammetry, made on-foot and by-hand. The spoken poem that runs through the film derived from an AR exchange between an animator and a poet: a postcard sent from a tropical holiday, as imagined during a walk to work. ‘The distance between the staircase and the sky’ is a way to evoke a sense of place from walking, so that a short film may become a space of meaningful connections for those who attend it.

Ascending a staircase in the centre of Athens makes room for reflection on everyday life, as both otherworldly and mundane. On a planet lit by neon and on a beach powered by cicadas, we twirl into a void measured by walking - one step at a time.

A film by Katerina Athanasopoulou
Poem: Sotiris Koutsoukos
Voice: Emma Swinn
Score: Savvas Metaxas

One-minute trailer


Honourable mention, Midwest Video Poetry Fest, Madison, Wisconsin, USA. October 2023.


Window Display / Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. January-February 2023.

Tampere Film Festival, Finland. March 2023.

Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, USA. June 2023.

Video Miden, Kalamata, Greece. July 2023.

Bolton Film Festival, Bolton, UK. September 2023.

Animasyros Festival, Syros, Greece. September 2023.

‘The distance between the staircase and the sky’ (2022) and ‘Polykatoikia:Peripatos’ (2022) were screened at the 3D3 Legacy Exhibition Digital Flow/s: interdisciplinary digital arts and humanities practice-based research, at Sparks, Bristol. September 2023.

Zebra Poetry Film Festival, Berlin. October 2023.

Aotearoa Poetry Film Festival, Wellington, New Zealand. November 2023.

London Short Film Festival, London. January 2024.

Internationl Poetry Film Festival, Los Angeles, April 2024.

[upcoming] FIG Festival, Sofia, Bulgaria, part of Girls in Film special screening, June 2024.

The film was created as part of my doctoral research, and you can find more information here

A flock of birds circles and moves a cage vehicle, seeking escape from a city half finished and abandoned, with roads interrupted by fragments of fallen statues.



Apodemy from Katerina Athanasopoulou on Vimeo.

Commissioned by The Onassis Cultural Center on the theme of Emigration for Visual Dialogues 2012

Plato likens the human soul with a cage, where knowledge is birds flying. We’re born with the cage empty and, as we grow, we collect birds and they go in the cage for future use. When we need to access knowledge we put our hand in the cage, hunt for a bird – and sometimes catch the wrong one.

Ornithology uses the term “Zugunruhe” to describe the turbulent behaviour of birds before they migrate, whether free or caged.

These two images, birds inhabiting the human soul and the distress of the migrating bird became the starting points for this film, commissioned on the theme of Emigration.

A flock of birds circles and moves a cage vehicle, seeking escape from a city half finished and abandoned, with roads interrupted by fragments of fallen statues. Those hands are simultaneously the pursuit of knowledge and also the heroes/leaders of the past that we have rejected but are still haunting us.

In a time when Europe seems to be imploding, this is my portrait of Athens.


A film by Katerina Athanasopoulou
Original Music by Jon Opstad
Violin: Claire Wheeler
Commisioned by the Onassis Cultural Center for Visual Dialogues 2012


Winner of the Lumen Prize 2013

Finalist, Best Commissioned Animation, British Animation Awards 2014

Best Animation, London Greek Film Festival, October 2013

Special Mention for a Greek Film, Animasyros International Festival, Greece, September 2013

Nominated for the Peer Raben Music Award at SoundTrack_Cologne 10, Germany 2013


Filmessay at Archine, Brazil, 2016

Filmessay/E.V.A at Paris College of Art, France, 2016

E.V.A (Experimental Video Architecture), Venice Architecture Biennale, 2016

Special Screening, Strangloscope Video Art Festival, Brazil, December 2014

Lumen Show at the Onassis Cultural Center, Athens, November 2014

Festival Miden, Greece, July 2014

The Queen of Hungary, Landscape: Dislocation /Space / Place, UK, May 2014.

Public Choice Awards Screening, British Animation Awards, BFI, February 2014

London Short Film Festival, January 2014

Winter Shuffle, London, December 2013

Aesthetica Short Film Festival, York, November 2013

Underwire Festival, London, November 2013

KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival, Holland, November 2013

Shnit International Short film festival, Switzerland, October 2013

Belo Horizonte International Film Festival, Brazil, September 2013

Animasyros Festival, Greece, September 2013

The Queen of Hungary, Landscape: Dislocation /Space / Place, UK, Spring 2014.

Femina Film Festival, Brazil, July 2013

Athens Video Art Festival, Athens, June 2013

Hong Kong Art Fair, Animation Club Screening, May 2013

MAshRome Film Fest, Rome, May 2013

60th Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival, Serbia, April 2013

Skepto International Film Festival, Sardinia, April 2013

Holland Animation Festival, Utrecht, March 2013

Flatpack Festival, Birmingham Museum & Gallery, UK, March 2013

Visual Dialogues (Installation), Plato's Academy Park, December 2012 - February 2013

Primarolia festival in Aigio, Greece, is an annual art festival that celebrates the 19th century boat journeys towards the ports of Europe, carrying Corinthian raisins - Greece’s “black gold”. This year’s theme was ‘Images of a Floating World’ (ukiyo-e), where the mobility and fluidity of everyday life get reinterpreted through the new reality of the 2020 pandemic.

Artist’s statement from 2020

In these pandemic days, the journeys that we once took for granted are being tested and rewritten. Having plotted the attic of the exhibition space through the feet of a remote walker, I assembled a photogrammetry model and took my own steps within the digitally transmitted space, which is now virtual but no less real. The installation evokes a new underwater interpretation of the building, and the three screens act as portals into this alternative-yet-familiar space, pierced by a long trailing ribbon drawing its own choreography. The serpentine writing of the digital trail can be seen by the mobile, peripatetic viewer as they perform their own perambulation around the screens, each one revealing a view of the virtual space between them.

About the process:

With the pandemic lockdown forbidding me to travel to Aigio in person, I was introduced to the building that houses the Primarolia festival through a set of screens: the curator and the artistic director led me via video calls through the old warehouse that once stored raisins, walking from the ground floor up to the attic. This room immediately captivated me, with its wooden and metal roof seeming like an upside-down ship hold. My original plan had been to perform a ‘camera-walk’ which allows me to process an area through a kind of procession, capturing the room in an immersive video, which I later rework into a photogrammetric model. Unable to be there, I passed the digital batton to Bill Psarras, who performed the ‘camera-walk’ for me and then sent me the material through digital transfer, hundreds of frames traveling over the sea - like images of a floating world (ukiyo-e) that the exhibition is named after.

The photogrammetric models that I extracted out of the material allowed me to walk the set, in VR and also through my computer screen in London. I reimagined the attic as a sunken ship or a flooded building, with tiny floating debris embodying the multiple travel trajectories that we have somehow left behind, next to the seaweed that has taken over. After exploring the entire photogrammetric attic through my computer screen, I placed within it digital cameras that recorded their view of the animation; the three resulting films were screened in television sets in the real attic in Aigio, positioned where the virtual cameras had been. A red ribbon enters and leaves the space, like Ariadne’s thread defining the room via its own choreography. The score by Savvas Metaxas places the peripatetic viewer of Deep Waters under an atmosphere of intense yet tranquil pressure, underwater, in anticipation of “the great crashing of the waves upon the standing ships” in the words of Embeirikos.

Katerina Athanasopoulou is a Greek artist living in London who creates animated films for cinema and gallery space. She studied Fine Art at Aristotle University in Greece, and graduated with an MA Animation from the Royal College of Art.

Her award-winning films have been shown internationally at film festivals and galleries, including Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, Tampere Film Festival, Thessaloniki Biennale 3, Holland Animation Film Festival, Zebra Poetry Film Festival, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb. She has created films for Channel 4, London College of Fashion, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and she won the Lumen Prize in 2013 with her short film Apodemy.

Selected works include: The distance between the staircase and the sky (2022), a short poetry film that reimagines Athens as a newly-discovered planet; Deep Waters (2020), a site-specific animation installation commissioned by Primarolia Festival, Her Voice (2019), commisioned by AUDINT for their Unsound:Undead show at Arebyte, London; Branches of Life (2016), commissioned by Cast Iron Radio and Recording for the Body Of Songs project, supported by Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England; Apodemy (2012), a short film on Emigration and the Economic Crisis, commissioned by the Onassis Foundation; Engine Angelic (2010) for Animate Projects. Katerina also collaborates with other artists on short films, documentaries and installations.

Katerina is a Tutor (Research) within the MA Animation at the Royal College of Art. Prior to this position she taught extensively within University of the Arts London and Westminster University, and has been a guest lecturer at Kingston University, Middlesex University and Goldsmiths. She completed her doctoral research with Plymouth University, on the intersections of documentary, VR, and AR, through the lens of animation.

Doctoral research, completed January 2024

Walking away from VR as ‘empathy-machine’: peripatetic animations with 360 photogrammetry

Plymouth University and the 3D3 compendium

My AHRC-funded practice-as-research PhD partakes in an expanded documentary practice that weaves together walking, poetry, immersive technologies, and moving image. Central to my approach is the multifaceted notion of Peripatos  ̶  as a school of philosophy, a stroll-like walk, and the path where the stroll takes place, manifested both corporeally and as 'playful curiosity'.

The thread that interweaves practice and theory has my body-moving in the centre; I call it the ‘camera-walk’: a processional, performative shoot that documents a real place and the bodies that make it, while my hand holds high a camera-on-a-stick shooting 360-video. The resulting spherical video feeds into photogrammetric digital processing, and reassembles into digital 3D models that form the starting ground for still images, a site-specific installation, augmented reality (AR) exchanges, and short animated films. Within the collaborative projects* presented within my thesis, I move away from the colonialist-inspired ideal of ‘walking in someone else’s shoes’, and ‘tread softly’ along the footsteps of my co-walkers.

* follow the links to watch the documentation of Deep Waters and a trailer for The distance between the staircase and the sky, and see further below for Polykatoikia: Peripatos.

Conference Papers

Athanasopoulou, K. (2022) ‘Movement as Animation’s Material’, paper presented at [DCPR]3 - [Design - Creative Practice - Research]3 Conference, Design Museum, London, 25 November.Athanasopoulou, K. (2018)

Athanasopoulou, K. (2021) ‘Walking from Physical to Digital within “Deep Waters”’, paper presented at Animation Practice as Research Symposium 2021, Manchester School of Art [online], 21 April.

Athanasopoulou, K. (2021) ‘Walking away from VR as empathy-machine: kinaesthetic animations with 360-photogrammetry’, paper presented at Performance.Experience.Presence (PEP), Plymouth University [online], 15 December.

Athanasopoulou, K. (2021) ‘Glitching the Virtual’, paper presented at TaPRA Digital Distuptions: Bugs and Glitches in Live Performance [online], 4-5 June.

Athanasopoulou, K. (2021) ‘Walking from Physical to Digital within “Deep Waters”’, paper presented at Animation Practice as Research Symposium 2021, Manchester School of Art, [online], 21 April.

Athanasopoulou, K. (2019) ‘The Performing Skeleton and the Ghosts of CGI’, paper presented at Performing Animation, Animating Performance, King’s College London, 14 December.

Athanasopoulou, K. (2019) ‘A Virtual Walk through Spaces of Healing’, paper presented at Association for Medical Humanities (AMH) Conference 2019: Material Medicine: Objects, and Bodies, Plymouth University, 26-28 June.

Athanasopoulou, K. (2018) ‘Virtual Reality as Sculptural Cartography’, paper presented at Performance.Experience.Presence (PEP), Plymouth University, 10 December. Athanasopoulou, K. (2019) ‘The Peripatetics of Virtual Reality’, paper presented at Virtual Realities + Alterities RCA Research Symposium and Manifestation, Royal College of Art, London, 5 May.

Athanasopoulou, K. (2018) ‘From procession to processing to process: a VR walkthrough’, paper presented at Performance.Experience.Presence Weekend, Plymouth University, 26-27 October.

‘Towards a Cathartic Unpeeling of the Truth within VR Animated Documentary’, paper presented at Ecstatic Truth III: Making Sense Between Fantasy and Fact, Lusófona University, Lisbon, 8 July.

Cheiropoieton ©Katerina Athanasopoulou 2018

Varybombi burnt forest ©Katerina Athanasopoulou 2021

Stills from Polykatoikia:Peripatos ©Katerina Athanasopoulou 2022

Stills from The Distance between the staircase and the sky © Athanasopoulou 2022

Images from the ‘camera-walk’ and its SfM photogrammetric processing

‘Polykatoikia:Peripatos’ and ‘The distance between the staircase and the sky’

DIGITAL FLOW/S : An Exhibition Celebrating the 3D3 Doctoral Training Partnership

DIGITAL FLOW/S, which took place at Sparks Bristol in September 2023, offered the viewer a chance to experience a curated survey of practice-research produced by students and alumni from the 3D3 Doctoral programme, an AHRC-funded centre for doctoral training and a collaboration between Falmouth University, University of Plymouth, and UWE Bristol.  With a commitment to pioneer practice research in the digital creative arts, since 2014, 3D3 has trained interdisciplinary practitioner-researchers, and supported their ventures into cutting edge research in the interrelated fields of digital design, media, and arts.

I exhibited two films together. Polykatoikia:Peripatos (2022) is a split screen documentation of an AR exchange with the poet Sotiris Koutsoukos. Within an eight-floor building in Athens, the photogrammetric model of the building’s central staircase - created from a ‘camera-walk’ - was installed in its place of origin. The distance between the staircase and the sky (2022) is the short poetry film that derived from that very exchange, after Koutsoukos wrote a poem which became the spine (or staircase) for the film. Side-by-side, the two films converse; Polykatoikia:Peripatos is methodological and processual, revealing the bodies engaged in peripatetic dialogue; The distance between the staircase and the sky is a darkly playful journey into a new planet made from an old building, that re-imagines the everyday as otherwordly.

documentation video material © 3D3