Exploring art that’s ‘a little off’

Sigmund Freud’s 1919 essay “The Uncanny” developed the idea of something that can seem at once familiar and strange, creating a feeling of discomfort or unease in the viewer. The concept has echoes in the present day, everywhere from the films of David Lynch to creepy Old Spice ads — the notion that as the features of the representation of a human being become more realistic, they reach an unsettling point.

Moore College of Art & Design’s new exhibit, “The Sky’s Gone Out,” explores the idea of the uncanny in contemporary art, with a diverse collection of that conjure a similarly chilling atmosphere. The pieces, which include visual art, film and video, fashion design, literature and furniture design, will be arranged in a dimly lit gallery in a series of small spaces evocative of a labyrinth, the better to set the off-kilter mood for visitors.

Galleries at Moore director and chief curator Kaytie Johnson acknowledges that the idea of the uncanny, being based chiefly on a skin-crawling reaction than on any inherent principles, can change depending on who is describing it.

“It’s something that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, a frisson,” she says. “Everybody’s version of that is completely different, but it’s something that seems familiar but there’s something a little off about it in a bad way. It’s kind of precariousness: being in a liminal, in-between space where everything’s a little off-balance.”

Johnson hopes that visitors to the exhibition walk away not just with an appreciation for these pieces, but with a touch of that uneasy feeling. “I like the idea of people coming in not just to look at objects in an art exhibition,” she says, “but to experience a mood, a tone, an environment where they can feel this displacement for a moment.”

What you’ll see

The pieces run the gamut of media, including Chloe Piene’s disturbing video work “Blackmouth”; photographs and film of Copenhagen-based avant-garde fashion designer Barbara Gongini; Mark Z. Danielewski’s labyrinthine novel “House of Leaves”; a collection of early 20th century photographs of the paranormal by Canadian doctor Thomas Glendenning Hamilton; and the robotic music video for Herbie Hancock’s pioneering synth-fusion tune “Rockit,” directed by Kevin Godley and Lol Créme.

You’ll even see the horror video game “Silent Hill 2” included in the exhibit.

The Sky’s Gone Out

Through March 14

Moore College of Art & Design

20th St. & Ben Franklin Parkway

Free, 215-965-4027


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