Critical Practices Unit (CPU)

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I am excited to announce the inaugural session of Critical Practices Unit (CPU), on November 19 at 6:30pm (in McMurtry 360).

In this interdisciplinary and practice-based group, with support from the Vice President for the Arts, we hope to stage collisions between the various epistemes and critical frameworks we all know and love through performances, art-objects, interactive media, and “critical making” projects, which, in some sense to be explored, materialize critical reflection.

In fidelity to these objects’ disobedience to any specific field, we want to stress that CPU is for those in the humanities, sciences, and arts. These conversations—spanning computation, performance, race, personhood, gesture, interaction, and more—will be made all the richer by a diversity of perspectives.

For our first event, we will be playing with haptic devices for underwater robots graciously loaned by The Stanford Robotics Lab, involving ourselves in a live performance piece / installation by Catie Cuan, and settling into a conversation about the grafting of robotics and performativity. We are overjoyed that situating this discussion will be Sydney Skybetter, Lecturer in Theater and Performance Studies at Brown University, and Matthew Wilson Smith, Professor of German Studies and Performance Studies here at Stanford.

Matthew Wilson Smith: The Nostalgia of VR

Smith poster DAW 2018

On Tuesday, May 15th, we’ll have our fourth and final Digital Aesthetics Workshop of the Spring quarter, “The Nostalgia of Virtual Reality” with Matthew Wilson Smith, at 4 PM in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room. In this workshop, we will discuss the degree to which emergent technologies of virtual reality are indebted to longstanding concepts of presence and disembodied consciousness.

Matthew Wilson Smith is an Associate Professor of German Studies and Theatre and Performance Studies at Stanford University. His  interests include modern theatre; modernism and media; and relations between technology, science, and the arts. His book The Nervous Stage: 19th-century Neuroscience and the Birth of Modern Theatre explores historical intersections between the performing arts and the neurological sciences and traces the construction of a “neural subject” over the course of the nineteenth century. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. His previous book, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Routledge, 2007), presents a history and theory of modern artistic synthesis, placing such diverse figures as Wagner, Moholy-Nagy, Brecht, Riefenstahl, Disney, Warhol, and contemporary cyber-artists within a genealogy of totalizing performance.