Uncanny | Amit Berlowitz

Special Project for "Fresh Paint" fair , Tel Aviv 2012

Curator: Neta Gal-Azmon, Initiator and Producer: Revital Alcalay

Disrupted familiarity:

Relating to the “non-event”, Amit Berlowitz calls the space she is exploring “the ripple of an occurrence”. Like her other works, the video piece Hide and Seek and What should we dream of, as well as the still photographs presented here at the fair, Pavo and Deer, dissolve the distinction between the narrative, the staged and the imagined. It seems that Berlowitz offers the disintegrating narrative as only a starting point for reading the works, and that most of all we are dealing with a state of consciousness.

The video piece Hide and Seek takes shape within a poetic, almost abstract dimension, displaying the characteristics of a dream. Although ostensibly nothing happens in it, the experience of watching it gradually becomes charged with tension and with a sense of anxiety and vigilance, due to a feeling of disrupted familiarity. The work’s narrative point of departure is the childhood game Hide and Seek. A girl stands in a natural wood, counting up to twenty and looking for the other children that soon turn out to be absent. During the continuing search a suspicion seems to sneak into the girl’s – as well as the viewer’s – mind: is there indeed no one else in the wood, or is there something there that cannot be seen? Feelings of distress and unease begin to emerge due to the possibility of danger. At a certain point it seems that the purpose of the search is no longer the lost children, but the way back to a safe place, and that the innocent and familiar game has turned into a strange and threatening event.

The concept of the Uncanny, which Freud developed in a 1919 article, defines the combined sense of familiarity and anxiety that the viewer experiences when identifying with the girl in this work. [footnote] That flavour of something familiar yet unreal, unpredictable and enigmatic, is also evoked by Berlowitz’s still photographs – a photograph that captures a male peacock in a rare moment of flight, thus recording a physical ability which it has lost over the years, and a photograph of a lone deer wandering freely in a snowy Israeli wood.


Freud offers some examples from daily life for the emergence of the uncanny feeling – for example during a state of disorientation, or an unexplained return to the same place. Freud wished to shed light on the source of the phenomenon of the “uncanny” as something familiar and known, which nonetheless makes us anxious. According to him, the psychoanalytic explanation is the repression of frightening content, whose existence is hinted at by unexpected encounters in reality.

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