CFP: Staging Illusion-Digital and Cultural Fantasy

Abstract submission deadline 19th August 2011
Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies and the Centre for Digital Material Culture present:
Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy, November 4th 2011, University of Sussex
Keynote speakers: Professor Vanessa Toulmin (Director of the National Fairground archive) and Dr Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths). Confirmed plenary speakers: Professor Nicholas Till (Sussex), Dr Jo Machon (Brunel), Dr Astrid Ensslin (Bangor) and Dr Melanie Chan (Leeds Met).
From magicians to immersive media and from the circus to cyborgs, the celebration and/or mistrust of illusion has been a central theme across a range of cultures. Notions of fakery and deception stand in opposition to fantasy and escape; our identities are performative and we learn to present ourselves as masked; and postmodern thinkers have criticised ‘hyperreality’ for its capacity to entice consumption. Yet whilst ideas pertaining to ‘cultural dupes’ have long since been dispelled in academia, the figure of the ‘mark’ of the fairground scam remains culturally ubiquitous, perhaps more so than ever, in an era of (post) mechanical reproduction.Is new technology a flight from the real or merely a continuation of older cultural forms? Is it necessary, or even possible, to define reality in relation to the illusory?
Seeking to place staged illusions across a spectrum of historical, geographical and cultural contexts, the conference invites topics that might include, but are not limited to:
• (Virtual) Realities – video games, cyborgs, simulacrum, social media, new technologies, cosmetic surgery and body modification.
• Magic and Miracles – hauntings, fantasies, the supernatural, the paranormal, magicians, impersonators and illusionists.
• Spaces of Illusion – Theatres, fairgrounds, the circus, the music hall, virtual spaces/worlds, farms, zoos and theme parks.
• Identity ‘Imposters’ – Identity politics, authenticity, transvestites, cross dressers and drag, transphobia, legitimacy, pretensions and pretenders.
• ‘The Camera Never Lies’ – art history, frauds, celebrity, image manipulation, reality television, 3-d cinema, the magic of cinema.

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