[ISEA2017] Panel: Laura Beloff — Uncanny Realm: The Extension of the Natural

Panel Statement 

Panel: Methodological Approaches and Sensitive Experiences Based on Nature Immersions, Field Trips and Rural Residencies

Keywords: Art & Science, Natural and Artificial, Biology and Technology, Uncanny Valley.

One of the typical binaries existing in western society is the division between natural and artificial. But similarly biological and technological are often seen as oppositions. In today’s world, it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between natural-biological entities from artificially constructed ones with human cognitive abilities. This is due to the development of biotechnological methods to manipulate or construct new kinds of living organisms that are purposely designed by humans. Likewise, artificial intelligence-systems are being developed to become more autonomous and life-like with their sensing and learning abilities. These developments point out that our perceptions of the concepts of natural and artificial are radically changing. Traditionally natural is understood as something coming from nature and not made or caused by humans; and artificial is understood as the opposite – not natural, but produced, created or caused by humans. Taking the uncanny valley concept by M. Mori (Mori 1970) as a starting point, the paper will investigate how this concept fits into experiments that are intertwining biological and technological matter. The uncanny valley idea was developed by Mori in relation to robots and their resemblance to humans. It is a concept that is strongly connected to our perception of truth and to the moment when we are confronted with a question to judge if something is ‘real’. In the paper the uncanny valley concept is extended to experiments in the arts and the sciences that address intertwining of biology, nature, technology, and which disarrange our traditional understanding of natural, artificial and real.
The talk will additionally present examples of the recent and ongoing research by the author that is interlinked between biology and technology.

  • Laura Beloff (PhD) is an internationally acclaimed artist and a researcher. Research includes practice based investigations into a combination of information, technology and organic matter, which is located in the cross section of art, technology and science. Additionally to articles and book-chapters, the outcomes of her artistic research are artworks and projects that deal with the merger of the technological and biological matter and intelligence. The research engages with the field of art–science– technology including areas such as human enhancement, biosemiotics, biological matter, artificial life (AL) and artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and information technology in connection to art, humans and society. Currently, she is Associate Professor and the Head of PhD-school at IT University in Copenhagen

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