HKUK0361BU History of Art/Visual Culture: Bild-Anthropologie: The Artificial Woman

Volume 2015/2016

The Artificial Women - From Pandora to the Silicone lovedolls in the Uncanny Valley

Between life and the imitative art there is a third category of visual phenomena – the living image – which was impossible to assess with the traditional discourse of art history. Yet the phenomenon of living simulacra is a category as old as the Sophist and Plato’s phantasma, argues V.I Stoichita in his Pygmalion Effect. Simulacra have apparently always lived with the humans, and hunted the Western imagination. Exemplary in this respect is the Pygmalion myth and its image, which shares much with our concept of virtual reality.

However, among simulacra, a particular type of imagery remains most intriguing: the artificial woman. Documented by Attic visual and written sources, arousing images for the archaic and classical Athenian beholder are said to have been endowed with such power to create uncanny experiences, and dazzling visions. I am talking about the prehistory of simulacrum in the guise of the female archaic eidola. We will look into such images of desire and fatal deceit (dolon aipyn), like the Helen’s double – a statue made of cloud (agalma nepheles), and especially at the proto-image of the first woman – Pandora. With Pandora, this wondrous animated simulacrum, we will define a special typology of the artificial woman, the epitome of seduction and eroticism, the realization of the erotic, in which Eros was inevitably linked to Thanatos.

This course takes up Pandora’s paradigm within the Pygmalion Effect (Stoichita) and follows it from the mythical to the more recent embodiments of the artificial woman: the Waxen Venus, and the Silicone love-dolls in the Uncanny Valley, and other contemporary phenomena, trying to illustrate what has been always thought to be the Truth of the Woman, namely, that the Woman conceals herself behind Schein and Schonheit her capacity for deception. Theories of image, particularly of Visual Anthropology (Belting), as well as of simulacrum (Deleuze, Baudrillard), and psychoanalysis (Freud) will help us inquire into the anatomy of desire, and seduction as a strategy of appearances, and into the pathology of the uncanny in relation with the most amazing artefacts. Objects of deceit and wonder, embodiments of the artificial woman, they provide a “fetishistic scopophilia” (cinema studies), which remains ultimately a screen that masks an uncanny symbolic absence.

Selected Bibliography:

Badiou, Alain (2005) Handbook on Inaesthetics, trans. Alberto Tosca no. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; Baudrillard, J. “Clone Story,” Simulacra and Simulation, The University of Michigan Press, 1994; Baudrillard, J. “The Ecstasy of Communication,” The Anti-Aesthetic Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster, Bay Press 1983, pp. 126-134; Belting, Hans (2001) Bild-Anthropologie: Entwurfe für eine Bildwissenschaft. Munich: Fink; Belting, H. “Toward an Anthropology of Image,” Anthropologies of Art, Yale University Press, 2005; Belting, H. Real Images and False Bodies – Erroneous Ideas about the Future of Humankind" - The original lecture was hold during the Iconic Turn activities in 2003; Deleuze, G. "The Simulacrum and Ancient Philosophy". In The Logic of Sense. trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. ed. Constantin V. Boundas. 1990, New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. 253- 266; Heidegger, M. “The Age of the World Picture,” in The Question Concerning Technology and other essays, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1969, pp. 115-154; Herder, Johann Gottfried, Sculpture: Some Observations on Shape and Form from Pygmalion's Creative Dream, edited and translated by Jason Gaiger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Kerman, Judit B. ed., Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1991 (particularly, Francaville, Joseph. “The Android as Doppelgänger,” and Barr, Marleeen “Metahuman Kipple”); Mitchell, W.J.T. (2002) `Showing Seeing: A Critique of Visual Culture', in Michael Ann Holly and Keith Moxey (eds) Art History, Aesthetics, Visual Studies, pp. 231-50. Williamstown, MA: Clark Art Institute. Published simultaneously in Journal of Visual Culture 2(1): 165-81; Mitchell, W.J.T. (2005) What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (particularly, “The Work of Art in the Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction,” pp. 309-335; “Vital Signs /Cloning Terror”, pp. 5-27); Moxey, K. “Visual Studies and the Iconic Turn,” Journal of Visual Culture, Vol. 7, No. 2, 131-146 (2008); Stoichita, V. I. The Pygmalion Effect. From Ovid to Hitchcock, The University of Chicago Press, 2008; Gaby Wooden, Edison's Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life, Anchor Edition, 2003; Gaby Wooden, Living Dolls: A Magical History Of The Quest For Mechanical Life, Faber, 2002; Allison de Fre, The Exquisite Corpse: Disarticulations of the Artificial Female, 2008; Georges Didi-Huberman, Ouvrir Venus, 1999; M. W. Smith, Reading Simulacra: Fatal Theories for Postmodernity, State University of New York, 2001.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 84
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Lectures
  • 36
  • Preparation
  • 299
  • Total
  • 420
Type of assessment