Stuart Nolan

Stuart Nolan


Thesis Title

The Materiality of Thought: From New Thought Mentalism to Direct-to-Consumer Brainwear.


Lancaster University


Professor Charlie Gere
Professor Bronislaw Szerszynski

Research Summary

My thesis uses archive research conducted as a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress to trace how the nineteenth-century New Thought Movement, and related performances of Theatrical Mentalism, influenced ideas about the function and potential of the human brain. These ideas have shaped cognitive capitalism, the dreams of transhumanists, and the rise of intentional wishful thinking in the political sphere. I co-create workshops and performances with scholars, librarians, and the general public using archive research. Autoethnography involving stage plays illuminates the cultural practices of historical research subjects whose philosophical and practical techniques are fundamentally embodied, performative, and collaborative. The study highlights the cultural importance of an academically neglected performance art form and an under-researched but highly influential religious movement. My work aims to provide fresh insight into present-day political and scientific discourse and contribute to Religious History, Critical Neuroscience, and Critical Neuroart.

Research Interests

I have run a consultancy business since 2002, providing creative facilitation, training, and tailored performances. I undertake research in these areas.

I perform internationally, combining traditional magic and mentalism techniques with innovative technologies – a mind-reading robot bird, AI that believes in magic, a device that makes your arm invisible, fortune-telling Blockchain. BBC Click, The Guardian, Wired, Venice Biennale, and GoogleX featured my work.

I am a co-founder/co-editor of The Journal of Performance Magic.


Nolan, S. (2020) Edenic Telepathy: From Thought Drawings to Neuroimagery. Transdisciplinary Imaging Conference proceedings 2020.

Nolan, S. (2021) Telepathy, Touch, and Tango. Writing Visual Culture. Volume 9.

Nolan, S. (2020), Vers une magie numérique non rétinienne. Magie numérique: Les Arts trompeurs. Machines. Magie. Médias. Almiron, M., Bazou, S. & Pisano, G. (eds.). Lille: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion

Bennett, P.; Nolan, S.; Uttamchandani, V.; Pages, M.; Cater, K. & Fraser, M. “Resonant Bits: Harmonic Interaction with Virtual Pendulums” Proc. of TEI, 2015 [ACM]

Bennett, P.; Cater, K.; Nolan, S.; Knibbe, J. & Fraser, M. “Tangible Gestural Interaction with Resonant Bits” Proc. of Workshop on Tangible Gesture Interaction, TEI, 2015

Stuart Nolan & Nik Taylor , Performing Fabulous Monsters: Re-inventing the Gothic Personae in Bizarre Magic, in Botting & Spooner (ed.) Monstrous media/spectral subjects: Imaging Gothic from the nineteenth century to the present, Manchester, Manchester University Press, pp. 128-142, 2015.

Nolan, S (2009) Physical Metaphorical Modelling with LEGO as a Technology for Collaborative Personalised Learning. In: O’Donoghue, J, ed. Technology-supported Environments for Personalized Learning: Methods and Case Studies. (Premier Reference Source).

Nolan, S (2006) Building Magical Realms: Responses to Pervasive and Locative Technology. Digital Creativity, Volume 17, No 3, pp, 185 – 192


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