16 Mar 2024 15:00-17:00 Cambridge Central Library, 7 Lion Yard, Cambridge CB2 3QD


Faust Shop initially premiered as a co-production between Cambridge Digital Humanities and the Cambridge School of Creative Industries at Anglia Ruskin University. ‘Space Popular’ – an Architecture, Design, and Media Studio – provided virtual stage sets. Dr. Kirk Woolford served as Artistic Technical Director. Dr. Eva Aymamí Reñé served as Movement Director and Dancer.

Faust is not dead, but AI is. Faust Shop 2.0 transposes two scenes from Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust story into an AI Winter. It explores the impending collapse of the current AI hype as an opportunity to re-imagine machine learning.

AI is going offline. Faust Shop 2.0 is set in an age where AI is believed to explode into the physical world. It has spread across the screens, the shelves and into the streets; AI incarnates as mechanical turks, AI agents, court cases, time off work due to automation anxiety, click farms as machine learning invades organisations and businesses and our bodies.

Great projects at the outset seem insane.

But we shall leave chance out of it in future.

(Wagner, Faust’s student, in Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust II, trans. by David Constantine)

Staged in the Cambridge Central Library, a place dedicated to public knowledge and learning, this mixed-reality production invites participants to discover their artificial double. Meet Homunculus, a digital, multi-dimensional artificial life created by Collective AI and the Faustian pacts we make in our daily digital lives with tech.

Stepping into our pop-up performance, you’ll be immersed in a story that challenges the boundaries between virtual and physical space. A smart and augmented environment will use prompt farms and live motion capture to generate three AI experiments. Experience how automation creates movement and light and seemingly takes human form. Become part of an alternative digital future that is not inevitable.

How human beings torment themselves, that’s all I see.

Earth’s little god keeps true to type. Humans were

An oddity the first day and still are.

Somewhat their life would be in better plight

Had the Lord not given them the shine of heaven’s light.

Humans call it reason and use it

Only to be more bestial than any beast.

Projecting it on machines now.

(Mephistopheles in Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust I, trans. by David Constantine; adapted for Faust Shop 2.0)

The Faust Shop performance is a performance as research (PaR) project led by Dr Annja Neumann and Alex Mentzel. It is part of Neumann’s ‘Re-staging public spaces’ project funded by Cambridge Digital Humanities and the Isaac Newton Trust and of Mentzel’s PhD project on ‘digital topographies’ funded by a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

The performance will be complemented by a talk on anti-computing and digital futures by Professor Caroline Bassett.

For further details on previous iterations of the Faust Shop production see the press release on the University’s website or watch the trailer here.


Dr Annja Neumann is an Affiliated Lecturer in Modern German Studies, the Isaac Newton Trust Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Digital Humanities and Senior Research Fellow at Magdalene College Cambridge. Her practice-based research explores the staging of public spaces and politics of embodiment, with a particular interest in the theatricalisation of medical spaces.

Alex Mentzel is a second-year PhD student at the University of Cambridge, specialising in German with an emphasis on Digital Humanities, funded by a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Alex’s research delves into the spatial principles and architectures of online ecosystems and emergent technology, resulting in the formation of a ‘Virtual Topography’.

Caroline Bassett is Professor of Digital Humanities, a member of the Faculty of English, and a Fellow of Corpus Christi. She is Director of Cambridge Digital Humanities.


Please find an accessibility guide to the library here. If you have specific accessibility needs for this event please email comms.events@cdh.cam.ac.uk. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

This event is part of the Cambridge Festival 2024 and is organised in collaboration with Cambridge Central Library.


Cast List

Co-Direction and Co-Production

Annja Neumann & Alex Mentzel


Alex Mentzel, Annja Neumann, David Constantine (translator), Johann Wolfgang Goethe


George Crimes as Wagner

Udbela Escanero-Xi as The Technologist

Joseph Hanrahan as The Poet

Laura Maher as Faust

Alex Mentzel as Mephisto

Riaz Moola as The Intellectual

Annja Neumann as Shop Assistant

Laurisa Sastoque Pabon as Shop Assistant

Michelle Zhang as Homunculus

Technical Team

Peter Baker: Projection, Stage Manager and Sound Operator

Jacob Baldwin: Technical support

Riaz Moola: Digital Director and software engineer of the Faust Shop bot AI

Laurisa Sastoque Pabon: Technical support

Design Team

Jing Wang Thomas: Augmented Reality Director

Amaia Robertson Nogues: Digital Designer

Faruk Kara: Photographer www.faruk.kara.org.uk

Space Popular, Architecture & Media Design Studio: Digital Scenographers

This practice as research performance was generously supported by the Central Library Cambridge and the West Cambridge Data Centre (WCDC), Magdalene College Cambridge, the Faculty of English, the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics and the University Library Cambridge.


Cast, production and design team of Faust Shop 2.0, a mixed reality performance that premiered on 16 March 2024, in the Central Library, The Grand Arcade, Cambridge; photograph by Jacob Baldwin.


Michelle Zhang as Homunculus, Faust Shop 2.0, photograph by Faruk Kara.


Breaking free from technology performed by Faust Shop 2.0 cast with a projection of the Faust bot code, photograph by Faruk Kara.


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