Uncanny Visions

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Tin Shed Gallery will be hosting an evening of discussion at Goldsmiths, University of London on the 24th April 2013.

In 1919 Freud described the uncanny as that “class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar.” This feeling of the familiar, yet foreign, where objects, artworks and surroundings produce uncomfortable feelings manifests itself in many ways; from stories in literature such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to photographs of the dead and the notion of the double, to human-formed robots.

The Uncanny Valley is a ravine into which fall robots that are too close to human for comfort. The term comes from a theory coined by the roboticist Masahiro Mori, which effectively states that as a robot begins to appear more human, displaying both human appearances and characteristics our feelings towards its will in turn become more positive until suddenly turning to revulsion. When that point of revulsion is hit, the robot, or other nonhuman, goes tumbling into the Uncanny Valley.

We will be exploring how different practitioners from a range of different artistic practices have dealt with the uncanny phenomenon, these include; interactive sculpture, performance and photography as well as research undertaken by our panel.

The evening will be hosted by Rupert Griffiths a Ph.D candidate in Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway and last month co-organised Uncanny Landscapes, a week long conference, exhibition and workshop event. The panel will include Ruairi Glynn, an artist who builds interactive kinetic sculptures, his works draws upon the rich heritage of cybernetics, puppetry, dance and architecture. One of his most recent works Fearful Symmetry was part of the summer programming at the Tate Modern, The Tanks in 2012. Also joining us is artist Wendy Mcmurdo, who has used digital manipulation in her work since the 1990’s. Her films, The Loop and Olympia were both shown at the Tin Shed Gallery in March 2013. Our final attendee for the evening will be Dani Ploeger, a performer and cultural theorist. His artwork Feedback is looking at the digital double within his own digital performance. He has published in International Journals of Performance Arts and Digital Media and the Body.

Panel discussion is curated by Catherine M. Weir and Jonathan Munro.

Uncanny Vision – Chair:

Rupert Griffiths Ph.D research is concerned with marginal urban landscapes, focusing particularly on a number of artists and photographers whose work is enmeshed with the inner urban margins of East London. He asks how their practices can be considered as material and embodied engagements with landscape and as entwinements which wilfully decentre the human subject and develop a distributed understanding of agency in the production of landscape. Discussing their work theoretically as a synthesis of new materialist discourses and the Uncanny, two discourses which approach the problem of distributed agency from different perspectives but both of which question and blur essentialising categories such as self and landscape, nature and culture or living and non-living. He organised the week long event Uncanny landscapes, series of events consisting of workshops, symposiums, a conference and exhibition, bringing together artists and academics whose work addresses the ambiguity between subject, object and landscape relations.


Uncanny Vision – Speakers:

Ruairi Glynn is an artist who builds interactive kinetic installations that reveal the primacy of movement above and beyond colour, form and texture in human visual perception. Glynn’s work draws on a rich heritage of cybernetics, puppetry, dance and architecture to achieve this. He also spends his time curating, authoring publications and lecturing at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL & Central Saint Martins, University of Arts London.

His artwork Fearful Symmetry, is a glowing tetrahedron glides through the air, suspended above peoples heads from a 21-metre motorised rail holding the world’s largest delta robot. As the only light source in the room, the tetrahedron acts as entertainer and guide to the space, dancing with the audience, and playfully encouraging them to become an active part of the performance. Through the interplay of luminous form and motion, ambiguity in visual perception is explored and manipulated in an unfolding interactive performance between the public and a kinetic installation.

Glynn has exhibited work internationally, as well as most recently at the Tate Modern in London, he as shown in Centre Pompidou Paris, the National Art Museum Beijing, Seoul’s Olympic Museum of Art, Sao Paulo’s Itau Cultural, Beall Center Los Angeles, the Madrid Art Fair, the Kunsthaus Graz and London Design Festival.


Wendy McMurdo first became interested in photography while studying at the Pratt Institute in New York in the mid 1980s, before completing her MA at Goldsmiths in 1993. Her photographic series In A Shaded Place, produced with the assistance of a Henry Moore Foundation Fellowship, represents an important development in the use of digital manipulation in photographic art practice and has featured in many books and articles on the subject. She is based in Edinburgh, where she lives with her partner and daughters.

Her work The loop (2009), was directed by McMurdo and Paul Holmes, was originally created as part of The Skater project for Ffotogallery in Cardiff. The project examined the psychology of the gamer, with a particular focus on the effect of technology on the playing habits of young people and the importance of the avatar in their virtual interactions. The Loop follows a young girl attempting to mimic the actions of a figure skater on the neighbouring screen, highlighting the desire to play and explore in both physical and digital realms.


Dani Ploeger creates performance installations which often involve consumer technologies and readily available medical devices, and explore themes around the technologized body, sexuality and vanity. Dani holds a PhD from the University of Sussex and is currently Lecturer in Theatre and Digital Arts at Brunel University London.

His artwork Feedback is a performance which involves movement of his heart which is then replicated outside my body: Metal pins prod the skin of his back, according to the signal of an AngelSounds Fetal Heart Detector signal. The sensor registers his heart’s activity in real-time. Thus, a cybernetic haptic feedback loop is established.

Dani’s artwork has been featured worldwide, in venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Basel, Experimental Intermedia in New York, and para/site art space in Hong Kong, as well as the CYNETART international festival for computer-based art in Dresden, Germany. HIs writing in the field of digital art and cultural studies has been published in the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media and the Body, Space and Technology Journal, among others.