For Halloween, the readers of Oobject voted for their Top 12 Videos of Creepy Automata. A great theme, from cats in a milk churn to maniacally laughing dolls. One of my favorites is this clip of a Decaying 1880s Automaton Harpist by Vichy:
I won’t belabor how uncanny the signifiers are here, from the doll’s movement on its own accord to the way the eyes seem to cast around and occassionally return one’s gaze. The decaying apparatus is like one of Hans Bellmer’s dolls stirred into life by an electrical current. But it’s the fluid movement of the dead hands and arms that get me — human in their plucking of the strings of an absent (ghost?) harp, as the doll plays along with a creepy tune. Unheimlich!
If you go to Oobject, be careful. You might find yourself spending hours on end in their wonderful “weird” category. Or their list could inspire a day- or week-long browsing expedition in youtube for “automata.”
[See my related discussion of medical mannikins on Oobject in a previous blog entry.]