Amorphous Bodies: The Uncanny in Performance

Research output: Contributions to journalsArticlepeer-review



This paper explores the relationship between live and virtual bodies in performance and how ‘digital doubling’ and the morphing of body images can produce an uncanny effect. I apply Freud’s theory of the uncanny (‘
Das Unheimliche’) to contemporary performance pieces arguing that the uncanny is an increasingly common occurrence in our digitised world and can be used as a framework for analysing how bodies are reconfigured and re-imagined through performance. Relating to my wider research on gender and the female body in performance, I will consider if the uncanny (with its visual stimuli often including animated dolls and disembodied body parts) is more likely to be provoked by the female body or the body in transition between genders. I will be illustrating these ideas with reference to the Polish performance group SUKAOFF, considering how its integration of morphing techniques via digital video evokes
das unheimliche
and how the employment of both digital and analog technologies render the bodies of the performers uncanny. The use of Polaroid photos of audience member’s faces alongside the images being created and manipulated through digital technologies also complicates the performer/spectator roles. I relate the work of SUKA OFF to the theory of Laura U. Marks and her insights on the relationship between digital and analogue technologies and morphing. The combination of the morphing of body images through digital video technologies and the corruption of the body boundary through blood-letting and piercing in the performance render the live body abject and uncanny. The political potential of these techniques lies in the ability to destabilise traditional gender binaries and to consider a space in between male and female bodies in performance. In its aim to create a‘third gender’ in their performances, SUKA OFF explores the liminal zones between male and female bodies and liveness and virtuality.


Original languageEnglish
JournalBody, Space, Technology (e-journal)
Publication statusPublished or Performed - Sept 2010

Author keywords

  • Live art, performance, uncanny, technology, live/virtual