Art or a Beginning of a New Relationship?

In this weeks reading of Information Arts, an artist named Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca performed the Epizoo in 1994.  There were many collaborators which included but were not limited to a music and computer designer, mechanical sculptor, computer graphics designer, and light designer, and its production was lead by many artists: Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca, Sergi Jordá, Loma Productions (Barcelona) and the Festival SIGMA 1995, Bordeaux (France).  It has been performed in over 50 cities in different countries such as Europe, America, and Asia.  The idea of this project was to take the theme of the exhibition of the artist’s body and adapt it to new ways of incorporating technology, creating an interdisciplinary work that centers computers in a performance/installation.  The first time Antúnez performed this project, he utilized a Windows 3.11 operator and 486 processor, quite ancient technology.  Performance users and spectators used this computer to pneumatically control parts of his body which was on a wooden platform hooked to a helmet and a belt with numerous wires.  The mechanism allowed users to control his nose, mouth, ears, pectorals, and buttocks through an exoskeleton robot frame while Antúnez was standing as a living and changeable statue on stage on a rotating platform.  The computer was loaded with software that created 12 virtual environments that recreated Marcel.lí’s image in the system and enabled the users to manipulate his movements by acting on his virtual body, such as stabbing his gluteus maximus with a knife or making faces.

The process of the performance starts with the public entering the space, then Antúnez undressing, taking the stage and donning the pneumatic mechanism.  The first screen of the game turns on and spectators step up to play.  After around twenty-five minutes, the notes from the Epizoo appear and Antúnez takes off the equipment.

The social context surrounding this installation is a metaphor for the sexual relationships of sadomasochists.  Since it was first shown during the emergence of AIDs, the title Epizoo in Spanish (Epizootia) is equivalent to epidemic in English.  The idea of a puppet that can move the way the spectator desires is a play on a telematic-lover or a torturer.  At one instance, Antúnez screamed loudly in pain because of too much pressure on his forehead.  Through these short moments of pain, an ethical dilemma may arise in what is considered allowed in art.  As Wilson described, Epizoo may be blurring the boundary between sex and power and depersonalization of human relationships (Wilson, 161).  Although the artists consents to the project he created, he is giving free reins to all who attend and participate.  The performance is completely up to the desires, whims, and curiosities of the attendees.  Some have used the machine to palpate his pectorals in a very erotic ways yet the relationship between the user and the victim of the machine is intervened by technology.  This can be related to the relationship between the advanced system in the movie Her and Theodore, the actor.  They cannot touch yet they use their words to arouse one another.  Will there be future inventions of technology that allow distant relationships to continue their passion with each other although far apart?

Kristen Chan


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