the Uncanny

In psychoanalysis the uncanny refers to that which is simultaneously familiar and foreign and which yields a feeling of disorientation. A source of attraction and acceptance but also repulsion and rejection, the uncanny cannot be neatly apprehended, classified, or categorized.

The uncanny is etymologically related to the German heimlich and unheimlich, both of which contain an element of the hidden, the secretive, and the invisible. The unheimlich, which corresponds to the uncanny in particular, is what becomes visible when it should remain hidden.

In reframing the familiar and producing new conditions of visibility, infrastructures can yield an uncanny effect. Whether in the naturalization of denatured landscapes or in the transference and telepathy engendered by print and digital photographs, infrastructures can complicate divisions between the natural, unnatural, preternatural, and supernatural and upset our expectations and our habituated senses of ease.