Daddy Does Cybernetics: Diary of a Mental Patient

 

Daddy Does Cybernetics: Diary of a Mental Patient

West Hall Auditorium

September 13, 2006 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

Speaker: Jackie Orr (Syracuse University)

Diary of a Mental Patient  -  a performance text & video-collage (approximate length: 60 minutes)

Daddy does cybernetics performs an historical, somewhat hysterical, story of U.S. Cold War culture caught between the threat of contagious panic and the government-sponsored imperative to "Keep Calm!"  Part social history, part political theater, part schizophrenic poetry, this piece of 'performance theory' attempts to evoke the reasoned madness of an era from which we perhaps have yet to fully emerge. This is a history of the present, spoken in multiple tongues. Sociologists and psychotics, daughters and daddies, scientists and their oh-so-experimental subjects compose the collage of voices in this social history of militarized culture and strategically constructed terrors.

Drawing from a larger project on the cultural history of panic, daddy does cybernetics presents the entangled narratives of Talcott Parsons, the pre-eminent U.S. sociological theorist, and his daughter Anne, a cultural anthropologist who studies mental disease until she herself is institutionalized at Yale Psychiatric Institute in 1963. Staged against the backdrop of my own white suburban childhood in a Cold War society rapidly transformed by new technoscientific dreams and realities, the text explores the theaters of power, knowledge, and desire that animate individual psychological life as well as (social) scientific practices. Public anxieties over atomic weapons, proliferating government and academic studies of collective panic, the ambitious rise of cybernetics as a new science of communication and control—each of these symptomatic social scenes is implicated in the drama and intimate dis-ease of nuclear family relations.

A video-collage accompanies the text, mixing together images from Cold War television and civil defense films, U.S. military documentary footage, and the experimental film Spectres of the Spectrum (Craig Baldwin, 1999).

The interdisciplinary and performative nature of this work makes it accessible to a range of audiences in sociology, U.S. history, cultural studies, anthropology, women's studies, science and technology studies, performance studies, and literature. Graduate and undergraduate students have been one of my most engaged and insightful audiences. daddy has been performed at New York University; the University of Southern California; Ohio State University; University of Chicago; Middlebury College; University of Lancaster, England; and Vassar College.

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