Stelarc is a world-renowned body-installation visual artist who has pushed the boundaries with his performances for more than four decades. His art has extruded the body beyond its physical limitations and created strong reactions around the world. Though strictly speaking he doesn’t consider himself to be a transhumanist, he also doesn’t mind being labeled a transhumanist artist. Stelarc has been on my guest wish list since the very beginning of my podcast and I was very happy to interview him on Singularity 1on1.
During our 80 min conversation with Stelarc we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: whether his first love was art or technology; the story behind his attempt to “extrude” the body beyond its physical limitations; changing his name to Stelarc; his inspiration, motivation, and goals; transhumanism and the philosophically problematic value judgments of enhancement and improvement; what is art and the new mediums thereof; his 3rd ear, the misconceptions and the risks surrounding it; if the body is obsolete; his take on the technological singularity…
My two favorite quotes that I will take away from this interview with Stelarc are:
I think as artists we are really in the business of generating contestable futures; possibilities that can be examined. Often they would be discarded. Sometimes they may be appropriated.
If you want to imagine a future, any future, you have to factor the unpredictable. Otherwise it is not a future.
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Who is Stelarc?
Stelarc is a performance artist who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. He has made three films of the inside of his body. Between 1976-1988 he completed 25 body suspension performances with hooks into the skin. He has used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body.
He has performed with a THIRD HAND, a VIRTUAL ARM, a STOMACH SCULPTURE and EXOSKELETON, a 6-legged walking robot. His FRACTAL FLESH, PING BODY and PARASITE performances explored involuntary, remote and internet choreography of the body with electrical stimulation of the muscles. His PROSTHETIC HEAD is an embodied conversational agent that speaks to the person who interrogates it. He is surgically constructing an EXTRA EAR on his arm that will be internet enabled, making it a publicly accessible acoustical organ for people in other places. He is presently performing as his avatar from his SECOND LIFE site.
In 1995 Stelarc received a three year Fellowship from The Visual Arts/Craft Board, The Australia Council and in 2004 was awarded a two year New Media Arts Fellowship. In 1997 he was appointed Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. He was Artist-In-Residence for Hamburg City in 1997. In 2000 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Laws by Monash University. He has completed Visiting Artist positions in Art and Technology, at the Faculty of Art and Design at Ohio State University in Columbus in 2002, 2003 & 2004. He has been Principal Research Fellow in the Performance Arts Digital Research Unit and a Visiting Professor at The Nottingham Trent University, UK. Between 2006 and 2011 he was Senior Research Fellow and Visiting Artist at the MARCS Lab, University of Western Sydney, Australia. He is currently Chair in Performance Art, School of Arts, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK as well as a Distinguished Research Fellow, School of Design & Art (SODA), Curtin University Perth. In 2010 he has received a special projects grant from the Australia Council and was also awarded the Ars Electronica Hybrid Arts Price. In 2012 he was the recepient of the Michael Cook Performance and Body Artist Award.
Stelarc’s artwork is represented by the SCOTT LIVESEY GALLERIES in Melbourne.