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"uncanny" Tag

A short introduction to the Uncanny in Design

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In an essay from Freud published in 1919, called “The Uncanny”, he examines the phenomenon of the Uncanny. He describes it as a class of frightening things that lead us back to what is known and familiar. It is the return of the repressed events and memories that live within our minds. The uncanny is anything we have experienced in adulthood that reminds us of earlier psychic stages, of aspects of our unconscious or the experience of the human species.
According to contemporary artist Mike Kelly, “The Uncanny” can be felt when experiencing things like non art objects such as ancient Egyptian funerary objects, figures used for rituals, cults, and religious worship, anatomical models and wax figures, also contemporary hyper realistic sculptures. The scale of an object, The doubling of objects, and the “Almost Human” factor, can all produce that uncanny feeling. I am going to introduce to you now, 5 designers that possess these qualities in their work and designs.


First i would like to introduce Lidy Jacobs,
She takes the feeling of the Uncanny extremly seriouse in her work. She hand makes stuffed plush toys out of all sorts of different textures of fabric. And simply in its construction it reminds me of childhood and the imagination associated with dolls and toys. but the figures also present something terrifying, she adds elements of sexuality, that points back to adolescents and comments on  society and situations that arise between genders.

Her works really stood out to me in the exhibition “Hand Made” that i saw in Rotterdams, Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum. I saw brightly colored stuffed toys that somehow reminded me of my childhood but yet the figures were so outlandish that i could not place them with something recognizable in my mind.I connected with it but i was still lost as to what it was. This intrigued me.


Next i would like to look at Amsterdam based fashion designers, Viktor and Rolf. Graduates of the Design Academy in Arnhem, you can see here where the lines of art and fashion blur. There garments are known for being unbelievable unique .

As well as creating commercial garments and there haute couture collections, they also create life size and miniature porcelain dolls made in the exact likeness of the models that wore the original garments.

I find there application of the double in there doll making to be the definition of “uncanny”! You can see there collection here on their website


For a more structure based designer i chose Joep Van Leishout. Famous for his innvovative housing designs, his work borders on fine arts and design. He makes houses and sculptures in the likeness of our bodies (anotomically correct i might add) and blows them out of proportion.

The material he uses also gives a flesh texture even when the work is NOT related to the body, You can see his work around the Netherlands, At the Verbeeke Foundation and he also built some of the bathrooms in the Boymans van Beuningen museum.


Next i present furniture designer Maarten Baas. In his series called “Smoke” he has set fire to designs chairs we all know, from the high class French designs to the Reitveld chair. Again we see the use of the double here, an uncanny resemblance, although in the end it is something quite different.

 In his series “Clay” we see furniture that seems to be askew or off in some way. Almost like a child’s drawing manifested in reality. “Clay” speaks to me because of it imperfections, its hand made appearance. With its liquid appearance it looks as if it would melt right here. Thease days the mass production of furniture cause us to loose touch with the hand made journey that furniture goes through. Here it feels personal again.


Lastly i will introduce you to yet another Dutch designer named Zoro Feigl, an Amsterdammer who works with movement in sculpture. His witty constructions breed movement, and often are shocking with there seemingly flawless construction. In “poppy” its almost as if a flower is opening, as the seconds pass it then feels like were standing beneath a twirling woman’s skirt, then we are standing in a wind tunnel. Its in this process so many things are called to mind. With help of the image, the sound and the feeling of the wind produced by the device, it truly is an Art Experience. See for more of his work here on his website


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