The Mechanical Child

Digital video, 2017. 6 minutes. 
The Mechanical Child draws upon the 20th century psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim’s case study of ‘Joey, A Mechanical Boy’. Bettelheim theorised that not only were neurological conditions such as autism were caused by inattentive, uncaring parents but also that the unique sensory and affective characteristics of autism-spectrum disorders could be cured with Freudian psychoanalytic techniques, a theory that caused untold damage to the lives of autistic children and their families. In his case study of the mechanical boy, ‘Joey’ suffered under a delusion that he was part machine, a hybrid creature of electricity and flesh and identified more with the inert objects of technology than with other children. Bettelheim attempts to coax the little boy out of his fantasy by reinvigorating his empathetic responses to the world of humans. This highly problematic case study becomes a point from which to explore the uncanny, unsettling (yet also potentially emancipatory) new possibilities for mind and body in a world of vibrant matter.