When we think of human sculptures we usually think of ancient Greek and Roman figures; those stone-white Adonises and Aphrodites who generally stood as idealized versions of the human form. In one way these are realistic depictions, but on the other hand they exemplify unrealistic and idealized standards of beauty. Try as we might, most of us will never look like the bikini-ready Venus de Milo or Michealangelo’s hunky David. The majority of us are much more likely to bear a resemblance to the sculptures of Marc Sijan.
Sijan works within the realms of what he calls Hyper Realism, an artform so closely approximating reality that it comes across as though it actually could be “real” itself. As described on Sijan’s website, “if you were to view Hyper Realistic sculpture up close, you’d be absolutely amazed. The sculpture would look exactly like a human being. In fact you likely wouldn’t completely believe your eyes and would reach out and touch it to make sure it was alive.” The elementary Madam Tussaud’s has nothing on Sijan, whose work elicits experiences which are both intriguing as well as potentially horrifying.
The technical perfection of Sijan’s work appears like reality as first glance, but despite all that precision and perfection, the lack of actual aliveness within the sculptures themselves is jarring. There’s no life behind those lifelike eyes, and the eerie stillness of the inanimate objects–which look like they could animate at any given moment–is beyond haunting. Sijan’s sculptures elicit unusual sensations within us that we are simultaneously creeped out by and want to avoid, yet can’t look away from and are forced to grapple with. It is uncanny valley to the extreme.
The uncanny valley feeling speaks to the fact that hyper realism is a different playing field from realism itself. Whereas anthropomorphizing and humanizing inanimate objects typically elicits in us more empathy and affinity for them, Sijan takes it to such extremes that his sculptures successfully cross the line into the realm of creepily uncanny.
Hyperreality is thus paradoxically too real, and this makes it alluring but also profoundly unsettling. These human-yet-inhuman sculptures create a cognitive discomfort, akin to the discomfort of being confronted with cognitive dissonance, in that we are cognitively confused by perceiving the sculptures as real-yet-not, all-at-once. Our innate and experiential reservoir of what-is-real is automatically called upon,temporarily drawing the sculptures into actuality with their appearance, yet other proper contextual cues denoting humanness are missing; at the same time we consciously know the sculptures are just sculptures, even if our subconscious is shaking up some heebie-jeebies within us.