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The Alchemist of the Surreal and the Uncanny Valley: Jan Švankmajer, the puppet and eerie animation

Chryssouli, Georgia (2019) The Alchemist of the Surreal and the Uncanny Valley: Jan Švankmajer, the puppet and eerie animation. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

Jan Švankmajer, a militant Surrealist and member of the Czech Surrealist group, whose work is influenced by the Czechoslovakian culture and tradition, employs the notion of the uncanny in his films in mixing and contrasting ways and animating the inanimate is a central element. Freud’s The Uncanny, draws from Delusion and Dream and has a precedent, Ernst Jentsch’s On the Psychology of the Uncanny, emphasising that the uncanny arises from uncertainty and focusing on animating the inanimate and the uncanniness of automata. Robotics engineer Masahiro Mori’s hypothesis on the Uncanny Valley echoes Jentsch and has recently gained importance in the film industry, particularly animation. Crucial elements of the Surrealist thought and repertoire are the question of reality, the confusion between the animate and inanimate, simulation, technology, fetishising the machine, the fascination with science, the spiritual and the occult. As creation exists in poetry and transformation, the puppet is evoked as exemplary precedent and the actor’s model in theatre in the search of creating art out of the actor’s appearance. Scholars, artists and theatre practitioners questioned the mimetic, realistic, and naturalistic practice of theatre by arguing in favour and introducing diverse effigies and puppets on stage and screen. The relationship of puppets, statues, robots, objects and people in theatre holds a notable significance in the scholarly contribution of the Prague Linguistic Circle discussing first the semiotics of puppet theatre and the puppet as performer. In the contemporary mediatised world culture, the Kunstfigur takes the morph of a robot, a cyborg, as the borders between animate and artificial, human and robot, real and virtual, collapse and interflow. At the end, beyond the cinematic, surreal fantasies lies Švankmajer’s pessimistic view for the future of humanity, raising the question of what is really human and how deep is the Uncanny Valley within us.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Surrealism, uncanny, Uncanny Valley, Švankmajer, Mori, Jentsch, Freud, Gradiva, Olympia, Kunstfigur, statue, automaton, puppet, robot, cyborg, mask, animation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Georgia Chryssouli
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2019 15:01
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2019 15:01
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24450

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