The word Canny comes from the Anglosaxon root ken which means knowledge, understanding, or cognizance”, hence the word uncanny refers to something outside one’s familiar cognition. While the term was originally used to describe the feeling towards humanlike entities with mysterious or/and metaphysic characteristics, nowadays it describes this feeling of familiar yet unsettling strangeness mostly, toward inanimate objects of technological character who intend to simulate real life.
Because of the technology boom and its capability to almost perfectly imitate life, we find ourselves all the more facing this feeling. Robots, photorealistic 3D models, prosthetics, augmented and virtual reality and all kinds of simulations, very frequently bring us to the liminal space between awe and eerie. Even in our everyday life, the broad use of algorithms and networks, artificial intelligence, social media, digital platforms, big data e.t.c. create a similar phenomenon, bringing about thoughts around the balance between the digital and real world.
The term who firstly appeared in 1837 has drawn the attention of many theorists, psychologists, and philosophers over the years such as Frederick Nietzsche, Ernst Jentsch , Sigmund Freud and Jacque Lacan. It has been analyzed as the result of repressed feelings and impulses – things that should have remained hidden- , as the cognitive insecurity toward imperfectly perfect simulations, as well as, the incapability to distinct good from evil , pleasure from displeasure, which as a state creates stress towards what is real. With technology in focus, progressions of the term appeared such as the uncanny valley who refers to anthropomorphism in robotics, and the digital uncanny which refers to the digital culture and the feeling that intelligent machines anticipate our every move, making us doubt the liberty of our will, reappraising our relationship with machines and all outsourced stimuli.
What is it that we understand as uncanny today? Is it the digital simulation of reality, or are we so used to it that in the end, uncanny is reality itself? Do we feel this way towards machines because they look like us or because they make us feel we look like them? What applies with the beings who chose to be less humanlike (transhumanists and posthumans)? What happens and why with the rights of machines and robots?
Τhe international festival of digital arts in Greece, Athens Digital Arts Festival, is calling artists, scientists, thinkers, and technologists as well as any other creator to contribute with their work to the exploration of todays definition of the uncanny. The applications for the 19th ADAF festival “ Welcome to the Uncanny” in the respective categories, Installations, Video Art, Performances, Web Art, Animation, Digital Image, VR/AR, Games, Talks, Workshops, Music, Kids ( which includes all of the above adapted for children ) are going to be open until 1st of February.All applications concern the 19th edition, physical and digital who will take place in spring and fall 2023 respectively. Shortlisted artists will be notified through mail for the progress of their application and details about the possible presentation of their work in one or both forms of the festival.
Welcome to the uncanny…