I present a paper on how different kinds of technologies can evoke the uncanny, while tracing the emergence of electricity as a kind of uncanny phenomena to more contemporary instances of the technological uncanny in the work of various artists and other assorted pop cultural references.
The uncanny as defined by Freud is that which is uncomfortably strange finds a special kind of resonance when combined with various kinds of technological media.
Perhaps one of the most striking and memorable experiences of the technological uncanny, occurred on a personal level on visiting an exhibition with my at the time one year old daughter featuring the work of artist Tony Oursler. On entering the darkened room and upon seeing one of Oursler’s familiar ‘electronic effigies’ of projected video onto a small mannequin, all was calm as both myself and my young daughter contemplated Oursler’s piece. However once the video started to move and talk, my daughter let out a blood curdling scream of sheer terror, which I haven’t witnessed since. Clearly she was disturbed by what she believed to be an inanimate object ie: a doll, suddenly come to life, however the uncanny effect was more so seeing her react in such an extreme and distressing way, as if she herself was possessed.
Such an episode recalls Freud’s notion of epileptic seizures and of madness having their origin in the uncanny, of the body being momentarily taken over or possessed. Indeed the middle ages saw such behaviors as ascribed to demonic influences.
- Ian Haig, Australia ianhaig.net
Full text (PDF) p. 1103-1105