Pixel-thin in aspect but frequently profound in effect, the disturbingly polished motion-capture video works of British artist Ed Atkins engage, and complicate, the sensory-emotional space known as the “uncanny valley.” First limned in the world of early robotics, the concept was an attempt to describe the disorienting feeling of revulsion that one experiences as artificial life forms approachbut do not quite achieveexact human likeness. Obviously motivated in its formulation by modern techno-formal concerns, the idea is indebted to Sigmund Freud’s decades-earlier consideration of the uncanny, in which the psychoanalyst devoted considerable attention to unpacking the etymological subtleties of the German term for the sensation, unheimlich. It’s a word whose valences are well suited to the disconcertions of Atkins’s programevoking both the unfamiliar and the “
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