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New Commission | The Mechanical Child by Aideen Doran


Catalyst Arts is pleased to announce the premiere of our Flatpack Film Festival commission, ‘The Mechanical Child’ by Aideen Doran. The premiere will take place at the film festival’s ‘On the Edge’ screening event this Friday the 7th of April 8.30pm – 9.30pm, at The Victoria, 48 John Bright St, Birmingham. The film was commissioned by Catalyst as part of the  recent Members Open Call opportunity, in partnership with Flatpack 2017.

This new work of Doran emerges from the artist’s research into the nature of consciousness, exploring the possibilities for new kinds of empathy and exchange between human and non-human minds.

It draws upon the 20th century psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim’s case study of ‘Joey, A Mechanical Boy’, published in his (since discredited) book The Empty Fortress. Bettelheim theorised that not only were neurological conditions such as autism were caused by inattentive, uncaring parents (Refrigerator Moms) 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.

For more information about ‘On the Edge’ screening:

Flatpack Film Festival website :

Aideen Doran’s website :


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