27 September to 8 November
Open daily, 12noon-5pm

A group exhibition exploring the phenomenon of the uncanny valley with Julia Crabtree and William Evans, Benedict Drew, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Holly Herndon, Joey Holder, Sophie Jung, Lawrence Lek, Rachel Maclean and Katja Novitskova.

Click on the image above for a slide show of installations images.

The Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny Valley is a phrase that was coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori as a way to describe an emotional response that can be measured when encountering objects that are hyper-real; where there is a moment of uncertainty about what is being viewed that gives way to a feeling of discomfort or disorientation. This group exhibition aims to explore the phenomenon, alongside contributing to the discourse around screen based and digital works, by exploring the aesthetics of the uncanny. 

Joey Holder has created a new work that provides an immediate introduction to the exhibition; visitors are required to literally step onto a terrain that has been created by Holder and which covers one third of the gallery floor. The work, Feldspar (Hadal Zone), 2015, references both the deep ocean - the Hadal Zone is the delineation for the deepest trenches in the ocean and is named after the realm of Hades, the underworld in Greek mythology – and the earth’s surface, of which the greatest mineral composition is feldspar.

Rachel Maclean’s music for the Glasgow based band Errors, which she made whilst in-residence at Wysing early in 2015, takes us into the mind of an apparently alien species who stumbles upon a world of lost humans. The song and video question both what is real and whose position in the video is authentic, perhaps neither is. 

In Lawrence Lek’s, Shiva’s Grotto, 2015, which again has been made especially for this exhibition, the terrain of Wysing itself has been mapped by Lek and transformed using video simulation. A narrated video takes the viewer on a journey around a future Wysing; one that has become a museum to one of the first works built on the site, Ben Wilson’s Tree Keep, 1992. The video is shown alongside an interactive version of the simulation.

In Critters, 2015, a work developed by Julia Crabtree and William Evans during their residency at Wysing late last year, an object struggles to animate itself within a landscape that couldn’t be further from the green pastures of rural Cambridgeshire. Taking its form from historic radio telescopes located at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Astronomy, the object has been relocated onto the surface of an unknown planet, one that the object’s antecedents may have at one time tried to contact.

In Benedict Drew’s The Onesie Cycle, 2013, an image of a fleshy latex mask vibrates as the camera pans and focuses over its surface in exploration. A narration offers a biography of the mask as it explores its own motivation. Increasingly abstract and with an intense soundtrack, the work’s intention it appears, is to will the listless mask into life.

An object that appears animated through its own momentum is Katja Novitskova’s, Swoon Motion, 2015. Again made in response to the theme of the uncanny valley, the work appears to suggest a possible new life form, one with occasionally recognisably human elements, assembled to an unknown pattern.

Another form of mask is Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s Cite Werkflow Ltd, 2015 for which she imprinted her own image into wet clay. The object has been glazed with fleshy tones that belie its brittle materiality.

In Sophie Jung’s two videos, www.hydontitellyousomethi.ng, 2013 and www.aittherewassomethingelseiwasgonnas.ay, 2014 a face-painted narrator speaks directly to camera. The ponderous narratives link disparate, often surreal, subject matter that reflect on overlooked details of everyday life. And in Jung’s two sculptures, Notis Otis, 2013, and Mirror Stage, 2013, narrative and objects are in a Kafkaesque and unsettling dialogue, with a bit of added ASMR .

Holly Herndon’s music video Home, 2014, generates a sense observing and being observed. Herndon’s omnipotent presence animates the gallery space every 15 minutes and layers of sampled sound and text generate a sense of unease; an allusion to an unknown, presumably digital, presence watching her every move and increasingly undermining her ability to know herself. 

The Uncanny Valley, which is curated by Wysing’s Director, Donna Lynas, has emerged from ongoing discussions and events at Wysing which have explored what the future might hold for society, for the individual and for art. It is the first in a new strand of exhibition programming that reflect on subjects being explored and discussed at the centre. 

The exhibition is supported with funding from Arts Council England, the Henry Moore Foundation and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.

Image: Lawrence Lek, Shiva's Dreaming, 2014