4.360/4.361 Performance Workshop: Art, Technology and Living Space

John Bell, PhD

TA Sohin Hwang

This course will pursue the practice, history, and theory of performance as the combination of image, object, sound and text in real time and space.  Our explorations will focus on different combinations of human presence and the material world, in performances variously including objects, machines, light, text, movement, and sound. Final projects will focus on the design of outdoor evening performances for MIT’s FAST Arts Festival in early May.

In addition to practical performance work we will study and discuss the history and theory of performance as both recent and historical practices with trans-cultural contexts.  These analyses will include a basic introduction to Performance Studies and related theoretical approaches (what exactly is “performance” anyway?). In addition we will look at specific instances of performance from the perspective of anthropology and folklore, including Zuñi Shalako ritual, the American Pageant Movement, and popular processional theater. We will examine the early avant-garde (Futurist, Dada, and Russian Revolutionary performance); the mid-sixties work of the Situationists; Happenings and early Performance Art; and more specifically performance work at MIT, including productions of Otto Piene and Stan VanderBeek of MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies; Arthur Ganson’s performing machines at the MIT Museum; the history of MIT pranks; and the current collaborations of CAVS Senior Fellow Elizabeth Goldring and director Robert Wilson.

A persistent theme throughout the course will be the nature of technologies in performance, and the form and function of performing machines. We will consider the question of anthropomorphism in robot performance; and the nature of human/machine relations, as explored by Sherry Turkle, Survival Research Laboratories, and other thinkers and doers.



  • Prereq: permission of instructor
    Units: 3-3-6
    Lab Fee: 110
  • Notes: 4.360 subject level h / 4.361 subject level u: hass arts
  • Schedule: M 9:30a-12:30p, W 7-10p
    Location: e15-001

related people