Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Robot Baby" by Courtney Woodliff

This is a woodcut created by Courtney Woodliff in 2008. The image reposted with permission of the artist. Woodliff's website can be viewed here.

The image displays so many mad scientist/horror elements: tubes jutting out of an infant, the top of his or her head replaced by a gear, one arm severed, disembodied mouth with sharp teeth, mysterious liquids. And yet I don’t feel horrified. I’m more amused and intrigued. It’s the serene expression on the baby’s face. With that turned up nose and thick, pursed lips, the kid is even cute. Maybe he or she is sleeping, or, since the title tells us this is a robot, not turned on. Anyway, I’m not worried.

Certainly something has gone wrong. After all, an electrical socket is on fire, there’s spilt milk (or, well, whatever other liquid would be in a robot baby’s bottle) all over the place, and that big rat in the foreground has menacing eyes. But on some level it also seems rather cartoonish and fun. The black heart over the baby’s chest also lightens the mood. Perhaps the image is simply about the age-old story of how humanity at our rational, technological, and moral best, is always sabotaged by the human animal.

No doubt I find this image especially captivating because of connections to my own experiences. I am constantly over-anxious about my baby hurting herself on household hazards. Even when chances are slim-to-none, I visualize disaster! Every parent checks their baby’s breath when they sleep. It’s really kind of silly.

Here, the baby’s heart and the face is where I return and finally rest, over and over again. Ultimately that’s why this print makes me smile.

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