One of the projects from this week lecture that I found fascinating was the work of Stelarc. Stelarc is an Australian-born artist who is currently still furthering his research study at Curlin University in Western Australia, paved the way in exploring the body, technology, and culture. Stelarc uses these explorations to conduct experiments in a way his work exemplify “between the light of optimism and the shadow of aversion” (Wilson 158). One of Stelarc’s body-based exploration that caught my eyes was his Third Hand project. In this project, which was completed in 1980 and first displayed in Yokohama, Tokyo, Stelarc’s focus was on investigating how the body can manage with alternate sensory and operational possibilities. Much of his curiosity comes from the fact that Stelarc felt that the body “was an obsolete restraint and that in order to further evolve we need to free ourselves of its limitation” (WIlson 159). The Third Hand is a capable and touch-sensitive mechanical hand, built in size and structure to match Stelarc’s right hand. The robotic hand is made of aluminium, stainless steel, acrylic, latex electronics, electrodes, cables and battery pack.The robotic prosthesis attaches to his right arm and is controlled by the electrical signals sent by electrodes from various muscles (EMG) in his body.
As with Stelarc’s suspension pieces, the documentation of the Third Hand presents the nude artist performing with the additional member, the arm. Stelarc’s nudity draws the viewer’s attention to the wires, the nodes, and the aluminum hand. While the mechanical addition at first appears a great contrast against Stelarc’s flesh and hair, the artist’s performance slowly renders it an integrated extension of his bodily structure. What was amazing about what Stelarc did with this innovation was that instead of being restricted, Stelarc created an extension to his body. The human body, as Stelarc would say, is constantly being redefined. As humans have evolved for over fifty thousand years, we as humans are still constantly evolving today. What is fascinating to me is that Stelarc took it a step further during the late 1900s. While Stelarc’s project was in 1980, a lot has changed since then. Technoscience has integrated into medicine where prosthetic arms and legs have been developed for humans.
In this image, we can see this man with a prosthetic arm picking up an egg. In the years leading up to Stelarc’s Third Hand, it was not possible for individuals to have these robotic arms and legs. As Stelarc said, the human body can be a restriction and it definitely was. One reason for this was war survivors who has been amputated.
Like this man, many war survivors had their arms or legs amputated and many had to continue living like this throughout their life. But with the introduction of Stelarc’s project, much of today’s individual can get prosthetic arms or legs. However, prosthetic arms and legs are not cheap and not many individuals can afford it. So while the opportunity is there for individuals today, not many have these prosthetic arms or legs. This, in my opinion, is difficult to swallow because these individuals have to live out their lives without much freedom. Their movements are restricted and such problems put a strain on the family as they are forced to spend time in taking care of these amputees.
Below is a video of a man with a prosthetic arm that I found interesting,
It is amazing to see how far Stelarc’s Third Arm project has brought us to this day. But we should also remember the difficulty of individuals not being able to afford such technology for their body.
~ Kevin Trieu-Nguyen