Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium

 Jan 24, 2015, 10:00 PM – 4:00 AM
 Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611


This event is free and open to the public. 

To join the COMPLIMENTARY SYMPOSIUM LUNCH you must register for the symposium by Tuesday January 20.  To register, email Leslie Danzig (lbdanzig@uchicago.edu) with the following information: 

           Name, Affiliation, Email address, Vegetarian?

Important!  Once you have registered for the symposium & lunch, you MUST pick up your lunch ticket in the MCA Edlis Neeson Theater lobby between 10-10:30a on Sat Jan 24.  This is to ensure that you are attending the full-day symposium (as opposed to just the free lunch!).  If you do not pick up your ticket by 10:30a, you forfeit your lunch spot (sorry!).


The Volkenberg Puppetry Symposium is presented by the University of Chicago’s Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry in partnership with the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.  The Gray Center is a laboratory where artists and scholars experiment with forms of collaboration and, as such, seeks to provoke unexpected conversations and catalyze unpredictable collaborations in which artists and scholars disrupt each other’s ways of knowing.  In that spirit, this event brings together artists and scholars from diverse fields to investigate the meaning, vitality and relevance of contemporary puppetry.  At once cutting to the heart of puppetry and seeking its broadest significance, participants will address questions such as:  How do we attach identity to a face? How do we perceive realness and fakeness?  Where do we find meaning in materiality? 

Conceived and organized by Blair Thomas (Artistic Director, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival), Leslie Danzig (Curator, Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry), and Sarah Fornace (Co-Artistic Director, Manual Cinema), this day-long event will be of interest to artists and thinkers from all fields, especially those interested in the tensions and affinities between artistic and scholarly creativity or between ideas and practice.


Saturday January 24, 10a – 4p

Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago IL 60611


10-10:15a       Sign in & pick up lunch ticket (if registered by Jan 20)

                      Help yourself to coffee & take a seat!

10:15-10:30a   Opening remarks

10:30a-12p      Session 1: Liveness on the Edges of Death

12 – 1:30p       Session 2: The Uncanny Valley: Real Fakeness and Fake Realness

1:30 – 2:30p   Box lunch provided for pre-registered guests with lunch tickets

2:30 – 4p        Session 3: Word as Object, Object as Word


Liveness on the Edges of Death

Leslie Danzig, moderator (Curator, Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, University of Chicago & director with Lucky Plush Productions & 500 Clown)
Mark Down (Actor, Director & Puppeteer, Blind Summit, England)
Timothy Harrison (Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Chicago)
Dan Hurlin (Puppeteer & Faculty, Sarah Lawrence College, New York)
Jesse Soodalter (Fellow in Hematology/Oncology & Director, The Living Mortal Project, University of Chicago)
Craig Stephens (Actor & Associate Director, Stan’s Cafe, England)

Practitioners and scholars in art, humanities, and medicine join together to investigate the emergence of liveness in its proximity to death.  What are the varying definitions and experiences of liveness and death that compel our different practices?  How do considerations of liveness and death intersect with the animation of puppets?  With the interpretation and staging of archaic texts? With performance practices of spontaneity, impulsiveness and presence? 

The Uncanny Valley: Real Fakeness and Fake Realness

Sarah Fornace, moderator (Co-Artistic Director, Manual Cinema)
Susan Goldin-Meadow (Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Psychology, Committee on Human Development, University of Chicago)
Tom Gunning (Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of Art History and Cinema & Media Studies, University of Chicago)
Claudia Hart (Artist & Associate Professor, Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Todd Murphey (Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University)

Artists and scholars working in the fields of media, psychology, and robotics delve into how we perceive the realism and un-realism in puppetry both live and onscreen. Puppetry shares mechanisms and attributes with a wide array of 21st century media: virtual reality, video gaming, cgi, and cinema. This interactive, interdisciplinary session explores the boundaries of puppetry as a model system for understanding the ways in which we perceive gesture, liveness, and simulacra in media and in "real" life.

Word as Object, Object as Word

Blair Thomas, moderator (Puppeteer & Artistic Director, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, Blair Thomas & Co.)
Clare Dolan (RN, Puppeteer & Founder, The Museum of Everyday Life)
Eric Ehn (Playwright & Chair of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University)
Frank Maugeri (Artistic Producing Director, Redmoon)
John Wilkinson (Poet & Associate Chair for Creative Writing and Poetics in the Department of English at the University of Chicago)

This session juxtaposes a highly regarded art form of poetry to a lowly art form of puppetry to glean the parallel properties of both and the unique attributes of each.   As a contribution to forging a poetics for puppetry this panel of poets, writers and puppeteers will unpack the question: How are poetry and puppetry twin art forms?, addressing matters of economy, distilment, image resonance, negative space and empty space.