Stelarc - Erasure Zone: Obsolete, Absent & Invaded Bodies

Virtual Futures
University of Warwick, 26-28 May 1995

Stelarc is a performance artist who is interested in alternate aesthetic strategies. He has used medical, robot & virtual Reality systems to explore, extend & enhance the body's performance parameters. In the past he has acoustically & visually probed the body - having amplified brainwaves, heartbeat, bloodflow & muscle signals & filming the inside of his lungs, stomach & colon. Having defined the limitations of the body, he has developed strategies to augment its capabilities - interfacing the body with prosthetics & computer technologies. He has performed extensively overseas in art events - including new music, dance festivals and experimental theatre. He has interactively performed with his Third Hand, a Virtual Arm, a Virtual Body & a Stomach Sculpture. At present he is developing a touch-screen interface for multiple muscle stimulation - a system to enable the physical actuation & choreography of remote bodies.

Circadian rhythms subside in the complexity of cyber-systems. Humans increasingly inhabit a ZONE OF ERASURE. Obsolete, absent & invaded bodies proliferate, facilitating THE VANISHING. It is not a "vanishing away" but rather a "vanishing to", where remaining human, being gendered or having a self are no longer meaningful concerns. Bodies need no longer be biologically affirmed but electronically erased. To be human will no longer be determined by genetic containment but will be reconfigured in circuitry. ELECTRONIC EXTRUSION. Notions of species evolution & gender distinction are remapped and redefined in alternate hybridities of human-machine. "Spoken tongues" subside in THE HUM OF THE HYBRID. Consider a body that is structured not as one free agent but whose functions are determined by multiple and spatially separate agents. This physically split STIMBOD may have one are gesturing involuntarily (remotely actuated by an unknown transmitter) whilst the other arm is enhanced by an "exoskeleton" to perform with exquisite precision & extreme speed. Its vision would not merely scan externally, but would be augmented & adjusted to a parallel VIRTUALITY which increased in intensity to compensate for the twilight of its real world. Such a body, a STIMBOD would experience its actuality as "neither all-here nor all-there." Its awareness would not be about its integrity; its authenticity would not be grounded in the coherence of its individuality, but rather in its multiplicities of agencies.

A system has been developed for THE ACTUATION OF REMOTE BODIES. It structures unexpected interactive possibilities between spatially separated bodies. A TOUCH-SCREEN interface to a multiple-muscle stimulator allows the body's movements to be programmed by touching the muscle sites on the computer model. The sequence of motions can be replayed continuously with its LOOP FUNCTION. As well as choreography by pressing, it is possible to paste sequences together from icons in a library of predetermined movements. The IMPROVISE FUNCTION allows random motions with varying velocities to be "superimposed" onto the programmable ones - which are determined by the number of stimulator channels. The system allows simulation of the programmed movement for analysis & evaluation before transmission to actuate the remote body. At a lower stimulation level, it is a BODY PROMPTING SYSTEM; at a higher level of stimulation, it becomes a BODY ACTUATION SYSTEM. This is conceptualized not as the "remote control" of a body, but rather the means by which a motion is displaced and repositioned elsewhere. To complete a task or condition a skill from ONE BODY TO ANOTHER - IN ANOTHER PLACE. . .

The STIMBOD system was completed with the assistance of Troy Innocent at Empire Ridge in Melbourne. STELARC IS A VISUAL ARTS/CRAFT BOARD 1994 FELLOWSHIP RECIPIENT. His artwork is solely represented by the Sherman Galleries in Sydney.

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