CART 454D / 4A : Enchantment, Matter, and Topological Media


Tuesdays 1:30 - 5:30 (EV 7.765), Occasional workshops & guest artist presentations will be offered Thursdays 7-9 PM

Prof. Sha Xin Wei

Course Description

As micro-cameras, sensors, and active, luminous materials become ubiquitous, the space itself between us becomes a sensate and kinetic tissue that extends our expressive bodies.  In this graduate / advanced undergraduate seminar, we explore the emergence of bodies, objects or events in fields of active matter.   We look critically at the technologies of performance vs. technologies of representation.   We explore poetically how continuous, topological transformations could act as diffuse agencies on living matter. 

This seminar will orient graduate and advanced undergraduates to contemporary work in the critical studies of media arts and sciences, and especially prepare for professional art research via computational media and experimental technologies of performance.   It is designed to  introduce the research questions and approaches that motivate the Topological Media Lab's work in responsive media and installations constructed as phenomenological experiments.

Students will present critical readings in philosophy, art, performance, and computer science in class.  Students will also have an optional opportunity to create tangible media or responsive installations in small groups.  Students are expected to be already versed in some medium or media, and be prepared to (1) write short essays about theoretical research questions, and / or (2) work with real-time, responsive video, sound, or kinetic media (e.g. Max / Jitter or MSP) to create experimental installation-events.

Students may treat this as an advanced installation course synthesizing approaches from experimental performance, computational media, movement, sound and materials arts. In Winter 2008 , we may do joint studio work with students and professionals from architecture or performing arts.


This course welcomes advanced undergraduates and graduate students who want to engage challenging texts in close reading and by creating installation-events.  A prior course in philosophy and art, such as CART 255 New Media Theory, is recommended but not required.  Relevant practical experiences can include areas such as fiber arts, performance and theater, sculpture, realtime computational video and sound; wireless sensors; computational physics; and architecture, etc.

Notes and tips:

This seminar is mandatory for students intending to do art research affiliated with the Topological Media Lab.

We'll start with :

Felix Guattari's Chaosmosis (chapters 1-2), and

Akeel Bilgrami's essay, "Occidentalism, the Very Idea: An Essay on Enlightenment and Enchantment";

It's probably a good idea to read these selections (and peek at the last chapter in Chaosmosis),
before the start of the semester, to orient yourself before entering the seminar.


Readings will be selected from the associated list of references.   You may suggest other relevant readings and present them after discussing them ahead of time with me.

Provisional Syllabus

The calendar is arranged into chapters with strands of readings and exercises as studies or responses inspired by the readings and the current themes.


The discussion sessions' format will be pretty free, but here is a prototypical pattern for a session:

Each week you'll write a one page reflection and share it with the class. Your writing and projects should respond to the readings and the accumulated themes from class discussion. 


Historically, the mid-term has been an event instantiating the themes and approaches of the course. See the video (midterm meal 2005, midterm meal 2006 , midterm meal Winter 2008) documenting past midterm events.

Final Project:

If you make an artifact (video, application, sketch, installation), write a 3-4 page statement saying:

If you choose to write a paper instead of creating a project:

You will write a 15 page research paper responds to the themes of the seminar. The paper should aspire to the level of writing expected for a journal such as Configurations or The Grey Room.

8 Dec 2006