Past Performance Is Indicative of Future Results

A series of lectures on performance in contemporary life, arranged by Professor Bradley Rogers in conjunction with the Humanitites Futures initiative from the Franklin Humanitites Institute. 

Tuesday, April 4    4:45pm   at Smith Warehouse, Bay 4 Garage, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall

‘The Future is Female’ and Other Chronic Desires, Sara Warner (Cornell University)

Tuesday, April 11      4:45pm  in 209 East Duke

Thinking Forward Through the Past: Lessons from Theatre Historiography, Richard Schoch (Queens University, Belfast)

Theatre history as an academic profession has existed only from the beginning of the 20th century. But theatre history as a scholarly practice has existed since the Restoration. Yet the deep history of theatre history is still largely ignored, mainly because its practitioners were not 'professionals', in our sense of the term. Redressing that imbalance, this lecture will identify some of the main contours of how -- and by whom -- British theater history was written in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It will also ask whether the neglected history of our discipline can help us to imagine its future.

Thursday, April 13       4:45pm   at Smith Warehouse, Bay 4 Garage, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall

Choking on Apple: Creative Labor in the TransPacific Tech World , Shannon Steen (University of California, Berkeley)

What precisely is “creative labor?” Why do we persist in thinking about creative expression and work as mutually exclusive domains of activity? And what does it mean that we continue to geopoliticize these activities so rigidly?  In this talk, Shannon Steen (Performance Studies, UC Berkeley) addresses these questions within the world of transpacific tech labor, in which Silicon Valley is understood as the locus of innovative and transformative labor and its manufacturing counterpart in Shenzhen China is seen as the source of routinized and exploitative work.  She analyzes these assumptions via a series of works that theatricalize these questions: Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Wired media group’s Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware, and the theatrical workshops of Shanghai’s Grass Stage with factory workers in Shenzhen.  

Tuesday, April 18         4:45pm  at Smith Warehouse, Bay 4 Garage, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall

Pieces: The Afterlives of American Experimental Theater, Marc Robinson (Yale University)

In the ephemeral art of theater, experimental works--those pieces marked indelibly with their makers' signature, dependent on the cadences of their original actors, rooted in the time and place of their first performance--seem especially doomed to obsolescence. This talk considers various efforts to counter, meliorate, or candidly acknowledge the perishability of avant-garde invention. Robinson focuses on American performance of the 1970s (an important transitional moment between the spontaneity of the 1960s and the more emphatic formalism of the 1980s and beyond), with special attention to two much-revived works from that decade--Dance (1979), the collaboration among Lucinda Childs, Sol LeWitt, and Philip Glass, and Einstein on the Beach (1976), the opera by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass.

Thursday, April 20        4:45pm  in 209 East Duke

Public (Re)Assembly, Shannon Jackson (University of California, Berkeley)

What does it mean to assemble in public in our present moment?  And what does it mean to assemble public sector systems?  Is there a relation between the public appearance of the former and the systematic operations of the latter?   Whether recalling social theories of democracy, modern and contemporary art movements, or industrial (and post-industrial) processes of arrangement, the concept of assembly is resonant, multivalent, and productively fraught in our current moment.  The term is sounded in classic concepts of democratic social process and in post-Fordist musings of neoliberal experience. Joining the histories and debates of social, aesthetic, and technological concepts of assembly—including the work of scholars such as David Harvey and Judith Butler and practitioners such as Paul Ramirez Jonas and Mayor Mockus of Bogata-- this lecture considers public artists and public servants who have endeavored to re-activate public sector systems and public sector sensibilities

Tuesday, April 25       4:45pm  at Smith Warehouse, Bay 4 Garage, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall

In Human Scale:  Climate Change and the Immeasurable, Benjamin Morgan (University of Chicago)

At a geological time scale, human activity is transforming the biosphere at an incredibly rapid rate. But in our everyday lives, we  experience these changes as slow or even imperceptible. This scalar disjuncture is a familiar problem for scholars in the sciences and in the policy community, who often seek to persuade the public that changes projected over the next century are catastrophically sudden. This talk proposes that humanities scholars may productively intervene in these debates by framing the conflict between human and inhuman time scales as an issue of historiography, representation, and value. How do quantitative metrics like degrees celsius or feet of sea-level rise become intertwined with non-numerical judgments of value? Can the narrative techniques of the novel, tragedy, or melodrama induce experiences of multiscaled historical consciousness that are salient to contemporary impasses? To explore these questions, this talk looks back to the nineteenth-century industrial origins of the climate change era, when novelists such as Thomas Hardy began to examine the human significance of new sciences of deep time and of the growth of fossil-fueled capitalism. Their work illustrates how methods and objects specific to the humanities can help us make sense of the inhuman scales of time that we continue to inhabit today.

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