Future Body

Legendary Australian performance artist Stelarc is known for going to extremes, from aggressive voluntary surgeries and robotic third arms to flesh-hook suspensions and prosthetics. For more than four decades, he has used his body as a canvas for art on the very edge of human experience. In this exclusive interview for the Interalia Magazine, he talks about his life, his work, and his vision for the future.

 

Third Hand: Handswriting Maki Gallery, Tokyo 1982 Photographer- Keisuke Oki Stelarc

Third Hand: Handswriting
Maki Gallery, Tokyo 1982
Photographer- Keisuke Oki
Stelarc

Richard Bright: You announced at the beginning of your artistic career that “The human body is obsolete”. What prompted this?

Stelarc: The realisation that the body is obsolete was the outcome of the initial exploration of the physical and spatial parameters of the body through sensory deprivation and physically stressful performances, as well as visual probing the internal spaces of the body – having filmed three meters of the inside of the stomach, the left and right bronchi of the lungs and the colon. I had also begun suspending my body, stretching the skin as well as its limits. These projects and performances exposed the body as occupying a small spectrum of physical, sensory and psychological experience. The body occupies a narrow window of sensation and survival. In addition, the body can neither perform with the precision, power, sensitivity or speed of its technologies nor manage the massive data streams of new information that it has to process. It is also obsolete in the technological terrain that it now inhabits. What should be stressed though is that asserting the body is obsolete is not alluding to any kind of disembodiment. It’s just that this body, in this form and with these functions is inadequate. We need to examine the evolutionary architecture of the body and consider ways of redesigning it. We don’t have to accept the biological status quo. The evolutionary strategies of birth and death are for population control and for shuffling genetic material to generate diversity in the human phylum. If we can do this artificially then the basic parameters of existence, of birth and death become unnecessary. If a fetus is brought to bear in an artificial womb, technically you come into the world without being born. And if we can stem cell grow, bioprint or engineer replacement organs, then a body can significantly extend its lifespan. Your life need not begin with birth nor necessarily end a biological death. That’s not to say your existence is guaranteed. Your life might still end at any time accidently or by some natural or technological catastrophe.

RB: Where did your idea of redesigning/enhancing the body come from? Do you think there is something wrong with the body as it is?

Extended Arm Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne 2011 Photographer- Dean Winter Stelarc

Extended Arm
Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne 2011
Photographer- Dean Winter
Stelarc

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