For the midterm, I decided to do a four to five page essay on the Australian-based performance artist, Stelarc. I decided to work on Stelarc because I believe that out of all the artists that we’ve discussed in class, he creates the most thought-provoking works. His works deal with redefining the body, while creating a vision for what the future body may look like when people shed their obsolete skin and form deeper connections with technology. Stelarc’s works touch on social and cultural theory, as well as Cartesian Dualism, Ontology, Biology, and numerous other discourses. Also, it is interesting to see what he does with his works and note the research implications of it; for instance, in one of his most controversial works, Ear on Arm, Stelarc explores the notion of technology as a “symptom of excess” by using cultivated stem-cells to grow and surgically mold an ear to the underside of his forearm (Stelarc.org). He is currently working on a way to place a device inside of the ear and have it transmit the noises that occur around him throughout the internet. With this work, it no longer becomes about identifying the body, but how it manages to connect with technology on a larger scale.
In my paper, I will be discussing Stelarc’s Third Hand, Amplified Body, and Ear on Arm and the philosophy behind them, then I will make the argument that there is a paradox found within his work, for Stelarc’s attempt at using the body to maintain and exercise control over our technological appendages does in fact highlight both the body’s obsoletion and the body’s capabilities of interacting and controlling the technology that he deems has become greater than ourselves. So at the same time, these works are confirming the body’s obsoletion in the face of superior technology, but it also shows the body’s ability to have a certain amount of control over the technology, so it seems that these two are at odds with one another. In these works, Stelarc does discuss the fact that these works are a “symptom of excess” and it sounds like he is warning us that we’re getting too crazy with the incorporation of technologies into our lives, however, it seems more like Stelarc is trying to better himself through the use of these technological appendages. We’re entering a stage where the integration of the body and technology is mainstream, just think about how certain people behave with their phones or social media, not to mention devices like Google Glass or Oculus Rift. Eventually, these “excess” technologies will lead to a race to see who has the most control over these technologies. By creating an extra hand, ear, and an amplified body, it seems as though Stelarc is constantly trying to figure out how he can better himself through the use of technology. Does that mean his projects are a bit selfish in nature?
— Ashley Bryan Marin