Curated by Jessica Hodin and Ben Charles Weiner
On View: June 25 - August 27, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 25, 2016 from 5 - 8pm
Featuring Artists: Conor Backman, Brian Scott Campbell, Michael Dotson, Jenna Gribbon, Anthony Iacono, Tracy Molis, Ben Wolf Noam, Rallou Panagiotou, Lee Piechocki, Josh Reames, Ryder Ripps, Rachel Rossin, Jason Salavon, Chloe Seibert, Lauren Silva, David B. Smith and Eric Yahnker
The term “uncanny valley” is now widely used by theorists to describe the unsettling feeling that certain types of technology can give us. Computer animation and robotics, in particular, can invoke strong feelings of unease in viewers due to their hyper-realistic simulation of human attributes. In his exploration of the phenomenon, Sigmund Freud references T.A. Hoffman’s story “The Sandman”, in which the protagonist, Nathanael, falls in love with a female automaton, Olimpia. Upon seeing Olimpia’s eyes removed from her body, Nathanael has the uncanny realization that the “woman” he loved is really a machine.
Olimpia’s Eyes explores the experience of the uncanny valley as it relates to new trends in figurative painting and sculpture. Using the traditional subject of the figure, the exhibition presents a version of identity that incorporates both virtual and physical aspects. Several of the artists on view, including Lee Piechocki, Ben Wolf Noam, Tracy Molis, Ryder Ripps, and Rachel Rossin, do so by painting or sculpting the figure from a computer-rendered source. Others, including Josh Reams, Eric Yahnker, Anthony Iacono, Conor Backman, Michael Dotson, Jenna Gribbon, and Chloe Seibert, present detached body parts, or forms that have been digitally cropped, objectified or otherwise reduced. A third way the uncanny valley phenomenon manifests itself is through artists’ simulation of the figure through an aggressive accumulation of multiple images, as in the work of Jason Salavon and David B. Smith.
In his exploration of the uncanny, Freud also delves into the idea of the double. The doppelgänger is the identical other – often connected almost supernaturally – and shares feelings, behaviors, and actions. While the uncanny valley can refer to the disturbingly human appearance of robots and computer generated characters, it has wider relevance within our post-internet environment, where people spend significant time online as virtual identities, and human interaction is inseparable from technological interfaces. In this realm, identity is malleable, and we are often unsure of who – or what – is beneath the avatars with whom we connect and interact. The paradigm of translating the real into the virtual is now being reversed and the lens through which we interpret real life is inextricably tied to the virtual worlds we spend so much time in each day. Reveling in this sense of unease, Olimpia’s Eyes reflects this time where the technological and the human seamlessly intertwine.