Wanda Tuerlinckx: Androids


GUP Author

Laura Chen

Artist Website

Wanda Tuerlinckx

In the work of Flemish photographer Wanda Tuerlinckx (b.1969, Belgium) the world of science and art collide, resulting in fascinating images that question today’s technologically advanced society and the ever-evolving relationship between humans and machines. In her series Androids — which was made in collaboration with Erwin R. Boer, Professor of Cognitive Robotics at Delft University of Technology — she documents the continuously accelerating developments of the current robot revolution. 

Diego San, Qualcomm Institute University of California San Diego ©Wanda Tuerlinckx

Fascinated by the feelings that people have when they meet and interact with realistically resembling automaton for the first time, Tuerlinckx explores the wider ethical and social implications of the incarnated human embodiment within her work. Since 2015, she has traveled the world, mostly to Japan, to photograph the anthropomorphic robots she calls ‘Humanoids’ and ‘Androids’, investigating the phenomenon that is called “Uncanny Valley”: the simultaneously enchanting and terrifying experience of witnessing something that give us the sense of human identity and appearance through emotional facial expressions and movements.

Mankind has created mechanical human beings since antiquity, however, for the first time in history, present-day advancements and capabilities have enabled us to give a physical and perhaps even a spiritual shape to our inexhaustible imagination of creating life-like doubles of ourselves. Some of today’s sculpted faces look, talk, move, and at rapidly increasing pace, even think like us. With robots being integrated into many aspects of our daily life, we fearfully watch how they reach human potential. The goal is two-fold, Tuerlinckx explains in her project statement:

“On the one hand, robot development is fueled by societies’ economic need to  be cheaper, faster and safer. On the other hand, it is fueled by human curiosity to understand what it means to be human.” 

Harmony. Realbotix LA, US ©Wanda Tuerlinckx

As a photographer she is inspired to visually immortalize the scale and level of complexity of the robotic momentum with an extensive series of portraits that define and describe it. Using an ancient, industrial wooden camera from the 1880s, which she calls Eduard, she creates a fusion of the past, present and future in one image, inspired by the Calotype technique introduced by British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot in 1841. “I became very inspired by this unique way of making images; the dedication and engagement required to produce one paper negative that can be reproduced countless times”, she elaborates.

Back in September, the series ‘Androids’ was exhibited at Unseen Photo Fair Amsterdam 2021.

Erica. Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories ©Wanda Tuerlinckx

Wanda Tuerlinckx is a Flemish portrait and documentary photographer based in Amsterdam, who gained fame in the late 1990s with her photos of Ajax football players. She has visited leading scientific institutes and universities to photograph the revolutionary developments in the field of robotics. Several of her works are kept in esteemed collections, including the Amsterdam City Archives and Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.