Let’s Make a Monster — Exhibition at Shriram Center for Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering

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Works from the course “Let’s Make a Monster: Critical Making,” which I co-taught this quarter with my art practice colleague Paul DeMarinis, are currently on display in the Shriram Center for Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering at Stanford University. The show, which officially opened today, is up through Friday, June 8.

We are particularly excited to take this work across campus and show it in the context of a space devoted to cutting-edge engineering work, where we hope that it provokes thought and discussion about the transformations of technology, experience, and life itself taking place in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Thanks especially to Prof. Drew Endy for his help in facilitating and making this show possible.

Here are just a few glimpses of the work on display.

Nora Wheat, Decode (2018)

Hieu Minh Pham, The Knot (2018)

Raphael Palefsky-Smith, Brick (2018) — more info here

David Zimmerman, Eigenromans I-III (2018)

Jennifer Xilo, Mirror for Our Upturned Palms (2018)

Jackie Langelier, Creepers (2018)

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Frankenstein@200: International Health Humanities Consortium Conference

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The 2018 International Health Humanities Consortium Conference will be held at Stanford University from April 20-22, 2018. The keynote speakers are:

Alexander Nemerov
Professor, Art and Art History at Stanford University

Lester Friedman
Professor, Media and Society at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Alvan Ikoku
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature and Medicine at Stanford University

Catherine Belling
Associate Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University

In addition, there will be a number of great events around campus. You can find more information here.

I will be participating in the conference in two ways:

First, on Friday, April 20 (2:30-3:30pm in McMurtry 115) I will be presenting a screening session of videographic works related to “Frankenstein & Film.” I will be showing a few of my own pieces (which you can see here and here), as well as works by video essayists like Allison de Fren, alongside commercial “making of” videos, art film reimaginations, and other moving-image forms that treat the history of Frankenstein films from Thomas Edison’s 1910 production up to the present day.

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Second, on Sunday, April 22 (11:15am), I will be presenting a paper titled “Frankenstein and Bioethics Beyond Chance and Choice.” The paper draws upon and rethinks ideas that I put forward in one of my very first publications: “Frankenstein, Bioethics, and Technological Irreversibility.” That paper, published in 2007, can be found here.

Let’s Make a Monster! Critical Making (Stanford, Spring 2018)

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Ever since Frankenstein unleashed his monster onto the world in Mary Shelley’s novel from 1818, the notion of “technology-out-of-control” has been a constant worry of modern societies, plaguing more optimistic visions of progress and innovation with fears that modern machines harbor potentials that, once set in motion, can no longer be tamed by their human makers. In this characteristically modern myth, the act of making — and especially technological making — gives rise to monsters. As a cautionary tale, we are therefore entreated to look before we leap, to go slow and think critically about the possible consequences of invention before we attempt to make something radically new. However, this means of approaching the issue of human-technological relations implies a fundamental opposition between thinking and making, suggesting a split between cognition as the specifically human capacity for reflection versus a causal determinism-without-reflection that characterizes the machinic or the technical. Nevertheless, recent media theory questions this dichotomy by asserting that technologies are inseparable from humans’ abilities to think and to act in the world, while artistic practices undo the thinking/making split more directly and materially, by taking materials — including technologies — as the very medium of their critical engagement with the world. Drawing on impulses from both media theory and art practice, “critical making” names a counterpart to “critical thinking” — one that utilizes technologies to think about humans’ constitutive entanglements with technology, while recognizing that insight often comes from errors, glitches, malfunctions, or even monsters. Co-taught by a practicing artist and a media theorist, this course will engage students in hands-on critical practices involving both theories and technologies. Let’s make a monster!

ARTSTUDI 233, FILMSTUD 233/433 — Spring 2018 — Profs. Paul DeMarinis & Shane Denson — Thursdays 3:00-5:50pm

Frankenstein 2018: 200 Years of Monsters (CFP)

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The call for papers is now out for the “Frankenstein 2018: 200 Years of Monsters” conference hosted by the Australian National University and the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, Australia (12 – 15 September 2018). I will be giving one of the four keynote talks — on Frankenstein in film and other media. Proposals are being solicited for talks on a range of Frankensteinian topics, including:

  • Literary studies, especially of the long eighteenth century, Romanticism, Victorian and neo­‐Victorian literature
  • Re-tellings and re-­‐imaginings of the Frankenstein story in various modes and genres, e.g. SF, steampunk, speculative fiction, slash fiction, etc.
  • Film, television, theatre and performance, and visual studies
  • Digital humanities, reception studies, histories of popular culture, and media ecologies
  • Gender studies, queer theory, and the history of sexuality
  • Disability studies and post‐humanism
  • The history of medicine, especially reproductive technologies
  • Science and technology studies; images and imaginaries of science and scientists
  • The history and philosophy of biology, especially in relation to vitalism
  • Eco‐criticism and the Anthropocene
  • Affect theory and the history of emotions
  • Frankenstein and race, colonialism, empire
  •  Global and local Frankensteins, e.g. Australian Frankensteins
  • Frankenstein and material history
  • Cyborgs, robots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning
  • Synthetic biology, genetic engineering, and artificial life

For more info and the CFP, take a look at the conference website: http://rsha.cass.anu.edu.au/events/conference-frankenstein-two-hundred-years-monsters

Claus Pias at Stanford

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Next week, media theorist Claus Pias, Professor for the Theory and History of Media at Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, will be visiting Stanford for a series of events: on Monday, October 23 (5:30 – 7:00pm), he will be delivering a public lecture titled “Between Information Aesthetics and Design Amplification,” which will be held in my home department of Art & Art History. (More info here.)

The following day, Tuesday, October 24 (11:30am – 1:00pm), he will be discussing his book Computer Game Worlds, which is newly translated into English, at a lunchtime event with the Digital Aesthetics Workshop. (See the poster below or find more info here.)

Claus Pias DAW poster

Digital Aesthetics Workshop: Mark B.N. Hansen, “The Ontology of Media Operations”

Mark Hansen DAW poster

I am pleased to announce the first event in the new Digital Aesthetics Workshop at the Stanford Humanities Center. On Tuesday, October 10, Mark B. N. Hansen (Duke University) will be speaking on the topic of “The Ontology of Media Operations, or, Where is the Technics in Cultural Techniques?”

Future workshops will welcome Claus Pias, Allison de Fren, Bonnie Ruberg, Jacob Gaboury, Jonathan Sterne, and more. Stay tuned!