Uncanny Sensing, Remote Valleys
Steve Rowell is an artist who works with photography, moving image, sound, installation, maps, and spatial concepts to produce complex multicomponent projects.Artist Bio
Uncanny Sensing, Remote Valleys is a project aimed at investigating ecology and post-natural landscapes. It is about the rise of the machine in the age of the Anthropocene and how we understand, perceive, and experience the environment using technology—giving us a view of a life-supporting Earth that is digital, synthetic, strange, uncanny. Through the use of autonomous aerial cameras, air-monitoring sensors, and sound detectors, Steve Rowell will present media and data gathered in the field documenting animal behavior, plant cycles, waste, displacement, erosion, and other elements of the human-altered landscape. Some of this material the artist collected on his own, some has been appropriated from various sources: federal and municipal agencies, the US military, watchdog non-profits, university research groups, and from members of the public. The title of the project is a reconfiguration of the terms: remote sensing a method of data collection from the physical world via sensors and other remote technology and uncanny valley the cognitive dissonance caused by lifelike replicas of living things. First discovered by robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970, the uncanny valley is defined as a level of realism in which the human observer has a negative reaction. Any less realistic and we feel empathy; any more realistic and we can’t distinguish that it’s artificial. The valley in between produces repulsion, disgust, and fear. Rowell’s project ultimately asks, “Do we experience the uncanny valley when encountering nonhumans, those of flesh and blood or built in a lab?”
Steve Rowell is an artist who works with photography, moving image, sound, installation, maps, and spatial concepts to produce complex multicomponent projects. His practice investigates terrains of perception, nonhuman intelligence, ecologies, and technology, exploring the landscape as a site of political imagination. Rowell contextualizes the morphology of the built environment with the surrounding medium of Nature, appropriating the methods and tools of the geographer and archaeologist. Awards and honors that Rowell has earned include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, the Erna Plachte scholarship at the University of Oxford; a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; artist residencies at the Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik and Fogo Island Arts; as well as fellowships at the Villa Aurora Berlin, University of Applied Arts Vienna, and Newcastle University. He has collaborated with SIMPARCH, The Office of Experiments, and The Center for Land Use Interpretation.