Stelarc: An Alternate Evolutionary Structure
Billed as ‘the Glastonbury rock festival of cyberculture,’ the only mud to be found at the Virtual Futures 2.0 conference, which took place last week at Warwick University, was made on campus mainframes.
SOME OF THE FIRST DAY’S EVENTS INCLUDED THE FOLLOWING MIND-ALTERING LECTURES
- A Marxist retelling of the internet as a doomsday prevention device,
- How to create life from potash and olive oil
- The shimmering world of 1990’s monochrome text adventure games
- How the smell of burning flesh and an Xbox shoot ‘em up can help damaged soldiers
- Pro-anorexia websites as an ecology of support and starvation.
However, it was the mild mannered Australian cybernetic performance artist, Stelarc, who held the audience in a rapt trance of fascination and horror, snapping his own mobile phone pictures along the ride. During his presentation, he revisited his artistic CV, from suspending himself with meathooks through to the problems he faced constructing a massive robotic exoskeleton and filling chrome-gumball blender. with gallons of his body’s fluids.
Some of Stelarc’s earliest performances involved suspending himself using meat hooks in his flesh
As the foremost proponent of art gallery cybernetics, Stelarc has declared the body obsolete and proposes total augmentation with chimeric architecture – “an alternate evolutionary structure.”
Ruling his graceful physique like a Survival Research Laboratory experiment in the body mod scene, Stelarc referred to himself in the third person, deliberately confirming his disdain and disinterest in the fleshy shell that contains his vital ideas generator.
He delivered light-hearted descriptions of near fatal infections from growing a third ear on his forearm, to humble admissions that low-level sports injuries have prevented him from grafting upgrades to his new web-connected ear.
Stelarc described his sprouting protheses as being “not from a sense of lack, but a sense of excess” – cut to photographs of lasers shooting from his eyes, like a pirate on MDMA from John Carpenter’s The Fog. This, from a man (if we can call him that anymore) who has experienced an “involuntary body” where his limbs were controlled from global locations, and has succeeded in building and writing with a mechanical third arm.
Stelarc’s robotic third arm
Towards the end of his talk, Stelarc revealed his new best friend: a snarling PS2-era avatar that he’d programmed to communicate and sing in circuit bent pitches.
The spell Stelarc had cast over the crowd at Warwick was broken only by the occasional cackle made in reference to funding problems related to body-hacking and neural jacking. That, and sporadic bursts of extremely loud machine gun bio-industrial music.