Cultivating the Uncanny: The Telegarden and Other Oddities

Elizabeth Jochum, Ken Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The concept of the uncanny has attracted the attention of critics and scholars for nearly a century. While the translation of Freud’s Das Unheimliche and Mori’s Bukimi No Tani Genshō into the English “uncanny” connotes a relationship between the two essays, the link between Freud and the Uncanny Valley was not recognized by Mori until 2013. This chapter considers the relationship between these concepts and their influence on artists working with robots. Rather than focusing on the “representational uncanny” evoked by anthropomorphic robots in images, sculptures and films, we focus on the uncanny reactions invoked by non-anthropomorphic robot sculptures. We analyze three examples: The Telegarden (1995-2004), Patrick Tresset’s Six Robots Named Paul (2012) and Louis-Philippe Demers’ The Blind Robot (2013) to demonstrate how non-anthropomorphic robotic artworks evoke the “experiential uncanny” where the uncanny response does not arise from the figure of the robot itself but from the actions it performs. These actions are designed to stretch the boundaries between the animate and the inanimate in new directions, provoking strong reactions as viewers become participants in the artworks and challenging assumptions about what, precisely, separates humans from machines.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRobots and Art : Exploring an Unlikely Symbiosis
EditorsChristian Kroos, Damith Herath, Stelarc
Number of pages26
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)978-981-10-0319-6
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-0321-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
SeriesCognitive Science and Technology


  • robots
  • art


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