The Uncanny Automaton


Session Title:

  • Robotics

Presentation Title:

  • The Uncanny Automaton




  • Marynowsky’s paper will present his previous and current research into robotic art which explores concepts surrounding the uncanny automaton. He will talk through the processes of developing his robotic work through the development of prototypes to finished exhibitions as well at the theories surrounding the uncanny, for example

    The Hosts: A Masquerade Of Improvising Automatons, 2009. As the title suggests, the work is a masquerade ball for robots at the same time it suggests the failure of artificial intelligence to mimic human intelligence. The work is partly inspired by E.T.A Hoffman’s The Sandman (1817). In which a young man falls in love with a feminine automaton, Olympia, who dances with him at a ball. The Sandman is a key-feature in Sigmund Freud’s essay The Uncanny (1919). Since Freud’s association between the uncanny and the automaton, the uncanny has continued to be a key term in robotics. Namely Professor Mori’s Uncanny Valley (1970). The hypothesis warned artists not to design robots too human-like, otherwise the robot would repel the human viewer and thus fall into the Uncanny Valley, a state of fear and disbelief. In this work Marynowsky seeks to test if an unnerving effect could still be reached if the robots are designed as abstracted human-like forms. Automated lighting, including moments of darkness and an eerie soundscape enhances the slightly menacing atmosphere. The robotic theatre experience creates “a space where (free of superstition and paranoia) we do not see the reanimated corpses of ourselves but rather other autonomous beings, improvising” _Bec Dean.