Written for The Kernel (The Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine)
Published in issue, Offline and Obsolete, July 26th, 2015
Since the ’70s, transhumanist artist Stelarc has used himself as an experimental canvas for exploring his ideas about the body’s obsolescence and its potential for technological alteration. The Perth, Australia-based artist has investigated, amplified, and internally examined his body to view how far it can be pushed with the use of technology, and how much further we can take its operation and its capabilities.
He’s created the spiderlike Exoskeleton, a six-legged, pneumatically powered walking machine with himself at the center; his Third Hand was a mechanical, humanlike prosthesis attached to his right arm and controlled by electrical signals from his muscles. For Stomach Sculpture, he swallowed a crablike robot, then used an endoscopic camera to record the results. And he permanently altered his body with Ear on Arm, a work in progress that’s exactly what it sounds like: a cell-cultivated ear built atop a non-biodegradable scaffold inserted beneath the skin of his arm. He hopes eventually to Internet-enable the ear, so that when it’s within any Wi-Fi hot spot, you’ll be able to listen to what Stelarc’s third ear is hearing.
For Stelarc, the obsolete human body is not one that becomes disembodied. Instead, it is this particular body—the one you’re sitting in, with its specific form and its limited functions—that has become inadequate in a technological terrain of fast, precise, and powerful machinery. Via Skype from his office as the Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art (SODA), Curtin University, Perth, he shared his thoughts on art and the body, the increasing speed of technological change, and whether experimenting with his body reminds him of his mortality. …
Illustration by Max Fleishman