“clementine, meet stelarc”

Stelarc is going to be in Ann Arbor next week, and I’m debating whether or not to take Clementine to see her first trans-human performance artist… When does one usually introduce that kind of thing anyway? None of the baby books talk about it. I guess they just assume that the answer is obvious.

It’s kind of funny… here we’re planning to keep her away from TV as best we can for at least two years, but you tell us that there’ll be a naked man hanging from hooks and exploring the boundaries of body manipulation, and we’re right there in the front row with her.

Here’s the press release, in case any of you are interested in such things:

Seminar/Performance in Forum Hall, Palmer Commons, December 9, 5pm

Performance Artist, Stelarc, Explores Our Prosthetically-Enhanced Future

Cutting-edge Australian artist Stelarc will discuss his ongoing investigations into the obsolescence of the human body in a performance entitled Augmented and Avatar Bodies: Muscle Machine, Prosthetic Head and 1/4 Scale Ear at Forum Hall in Palmer Commons at 5:00pm, Thursday, December 9, 2004 on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

For over 30 years, Stelarc has utilized his own body as a means to explore biological limitations and to extend and enhance the body through technology. “The body has become profoundly obsolete in the intense information environment it has created,” Stelarc commented. “How can the body function within this landscape of machines? We can’t continue designing technology for the body because that technology begins to usurp and outperform the body. Perhaps it’s now time to design the body to match its machines.”

In creating a human-machine hybrid, Stelarc uses medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, virtual reality systems and the Internet. He performs with a third hand, a virtual arm, a virtual body, and a stomach sculpture.

Stelarc believes that “with the micro-miniaturization of technology there is the new perspective of the body perhaps colonized by synthetic micro-organisms.” He envisions a thoroughly prosthetic body no longer subject to the limits of human life: “Thus life would no longer commence with birth and end with death! Life would become a digital experience and no longer a development, maturation and a decline as in an analog experience.” By reorganizing the body prosthetically there is a “redefinition, not only of the significance of being human, but also of that which we call existence.”

In his December 9th performance, Stelarc will be discussing his recent projects including a PROSTHETIC HEAD – an embodied conversational agent which responds to the person who interrogates it; a 1/4 scale replica of the artist’s ear which was grown with human cells as a step towards constructing an EXTRA EAR on his arm,; and the PARTIAL HEAD, which involves growing facial parts with living cells that will result in a partial portrait of the artist.

Stelarc has performed extensively in Japan, Europe and the US. He has been awarded a Fellowship from the Visual Arts/Craft Board, the Australian Council, and appointed an Honorary Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2003 he was artist-in-residence at the Faculty of Art and Design at Ohio State University in Columbus. For the past three years he has been Principal Research Fellow in the Performance Arts Digital Research Unit at The Nottingham Trent University, UK. His art is represented by the Sherman Galleries in Sydney.

Stelarc’s performance at the University of Michigan’s Palmer Commons,100 Washtenaw Avenue, is free to the public and is supported by the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Series at the University of Michigan’s School of Art & Design and the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute. A reception will follow.

Linette and I have a friend whose PhD thesis contained several references to Stelarc. She’s told us quite a bit about him, but, in typical Mark Maynard fashion, I’ve forgotten everything except the one most useless tidbit. As I recall, our friend mentioned that she’d talked with him once, and, in the course of their conversation, mentioned his “auxiliary ear” project. He got visibly upset at the mention of this, and then corrected her by saying something like, “It is not an auxiliary ear, it is an EXTRA ear!” That still cracks me up.

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4 Comments

  1. Tony Buttons
    Posted December 3, 2004 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I brought a Stelarc Prosthetic Head into the bed one night and my wife left me.

  2. ChelseaL
    Posted December 3, 2004 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Ugh!

  3. mark
    Posted December 3, 2004 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    OK, Tony, you’re starting to upset my other guests. If this happens again, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.

  4. ChelseaL
    Posted December 5, 2004 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I meant “Ugh!” about Auxilliary Ear Dude.
    One thing to keep in mind about bringing an infant: when I was a child, I found the *planetarium* frightening.

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