Uncanny Valley, Girl explores a feminist cyber/socio-political imagination to produce a new narrative for the ‘fembot’ trope. It interrogates and subverts ideas of gender, the natural, and the unnatural; playing with horror and titillation to confront how we collectively fear and fantasise femininity and the space between the natural and the unnatural. The notion of the fembot so often condemns the female body as object or monster. Uncanny Valley, Girl reclaims the feminine body as subject rather than object, and as powerful rather than monstrous.
The ‘uncanny valley’ is a term coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970. It refers to a steep dip in a graph measuring our comfort with human-like characteristics. When features look and move almost, but not exactly like natural beings, it causes a response of fear or distaste in observers. When robots look too much like a real human, it makes us uncomfortable. The uncanny valley maps the visceral reaction at the borders of life and technology, the real and the unreal, and pleasure and horror.
The consistent assignment of femininity to inherently genderless machines reveals how society equates femininity with service and submissiveness. Uncanny Valley, Girl draws on feminised cyborgs throughout cinematic history, from Maria in the 1927 film Metropolis, to Ava in the 2015 film Ex Machina. Uncanny Valley, Girl addresses a fantasy that operates on two levels – the ongoing erotic fantasy of the female body, and the ongoing utopic/dystopic fantasy of escalating technological advancement. The fear of technology rising up and destroying humans becomes even more horrific when that technology carries the image of femininity – as though our ultimate fear is not only the rising up of the machine, but also the rising up of the feminine body. Uncanny Valley, Girl is an imagining of the fembot reclaiming its subjectivity, not against humans, but for itself. In turn working to reclaim the feminine body from its suppression at the hands of our darkest cultural fears.
27 November 2015 – OUROBOROS: THE END IS THE BEGINNING IS THE END curated by Justin Shoulder, Firsdraft Gallery, Sydney – http://firstdraft.org.au/exhibitions/ouroboros/
2-4 September 2016 – Adhocracy development program, Vitalstatistix, Adelaide – http://vitalstatistix.com.au/projects/adhocracy-2016/
images by Document Photography