Erin Mitchell – Uncanny Valley

Exhibition Opening Reception: Sept. 1st, 6-9pm

02.09.2017   - 09.09.2017

September 2-9, 2017, SomoS Art House Berlin presents the installation “Uncanny Valley” by Artist-in-Residence Erin Mitchell (USA).

An extension of her previous two-dimensional work, “Uncanny Valley” continues to explore the relationships between humans and technology.

The term “Uncanny Valley” was originally coined in 1970s Japan by robotics professor Masahiro Mori, it describes the eerie likeness of human-like AI and robotics, often contributing to a sense of uneasiness and revulsion towards the likeness instead of affinity. Nowadays, with the rise of VR technologies, it seems to be gaining more popularity, especially as a way to describe the verisimilitude between our actual and virtual realities.

The exploration of this tension lies at the core of Erin Mitchell’s work, which consistently ponders the relationship between humans and technology.

Mitchell will transform the gallery space into an immersive installation that reanimates the idealized and commodified natural landscapes of our screensavers and desktop wallpapers. It will bring these peripheral background images to the forefront of our attention and create an entirely new experience that questions our physical and virtual understanding of space and environment. Using the human body as an intellectual and manual filter, it will demonstrate new subversive paths for agency in the digital age, ideally encouraging others to question their own relationships with personal technology and redefine their perspectives and movements within these two often competing realities.

As Mitchell puts it,

My ultimate goal with the installation is to play within and challenge this verisimilitude while hinting at the very tangible realities of the virtual spaces we navigate on a daily basis. Using the trope of the romanticized stock photo landscapes of our computer desktop backgrounds, I want to attract attention to the irony and contradictions within these hyper-idealized photographs of natural environments and the disconnect between their imagery and our actual physical environments.

By performing a series of “meta” and somewhat liminal translations of an epitomized background image—from digital image to physical adaptation in the gallery space to putting a digital capture of the transformed physical space back into the computer—the installation will play with the ideas of digital versus physical, embodied versus disembodied, and virtual versus tangible realities (and perhaps what it means to be between these disparate modes of being all the time, or to be in both at once).

In the material adaptation of the digital image into physical space, I’m also interested in addressing that, however intangible, technology and the systems it inhabits have very concrete effects in the physical world. While companies in the technology industry inspire us with breathtaking images of soaring mountains, swelling waves, lush forests, and saturated sunsets in their marketing campaigns and pre-loaded onto their products, they are making these positive visual associations to motivate us to buy their products. These images, like the devices and software these companies sell, become themselves a commodity. Is nature just another product for us to consume without conscience or consequence?

To me, the commodification of these images is no different from the traditional structures of advanced capitalism in which they’re situated. Much like we use wood—from trees like those depicted here—as a natural resource and a commodity, we likewise buy into and consume these images. In addition to calling attention to the differences between virtual and physical spaces, the imagery I’ve selected here is also very intentional. Depicting a natural resource we commodify in numerous ways, I want to call attention to the similarities between new modes of consumption via technology and the way we understand consumerism in a concrete sense.

I also think about the rising urgency of climate change, and how strange it is, that in a time where it’s so important to be connected to our natural environments, we seem to become more and more disconnected. We’re more consumers of our environments than stewards of them.

Erin Mitchell, Artist’s Statement


About the Artist:

After earning a BFA in Printmaking and Drawing from the Washington University in St. Louis in 2011, Erin Mitchell’s work has been featured in a considerable number of exhibitions worldwide. Her latest solo exhibition is “Virtual Prism” at the Hang Art Gallery in San Francisco, California (2015).

Working with a wide range of media and materials such as printmaking and drawing, her works investigate the intimate relationship between human beings and personal technology. Referring to the ever-changing and expanding digital world, Erin’s works reflect her attempt in explaining how virtual activity exerts influence on our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Erin Mitchell – Uncanny Valley
Open: September 2-9, 2017, Tue-Sa 2-7pm
Exhibition Opening Reception: Sept. 1st, 6-9pm