Does Stelarc move beyond the body?

Stelarc has an interesting perspective of humanity, or rather, post humanity. When we looked at his installation in class, where he hangs by his skin from wires, he says that he is trying to overcome the boundaries of the body. The boundary he is focused on is his own skin. But rather than eliminating it, I feel he is only drawing attention to it. In this installation, he is supporting his body by what? His skin. His disregard for the mutilation only draws focus on the skin’s purpose.  As we see blood dripping down his thigh, we realize that the hold on the skin is the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground, holding his internals in, and identifying him as an individual rather than a blob of a living system.

I think that trying to overcome the body disregards it for the spectacular system it really is. And with our bodies come behaviors that are human. From chemical reactions in our systems we experience joy and grief, and lust and adrenalin. I understand that a physical body has its limitations, but trying to dispose of the body will come with a lost of identity. Being embodied is a root of self, and if the post human is to be just a bodiless consciousness, like I think Stelarc or Moravec believe, that it won’t be post “human” but another species all together.

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3 Comments

  1. I think you make a good point. What really resonated with me was when you mentioned that the way he was hanging made him seem more human. It’s interesting that humans are always putting ourselves up on a pedestal, but at the same time we are always trying to make the pedestal higher.

    I guess in a sense man has always been trying to better themselves with machines– attempting to fly, go under water, move faster, and be stronger. But I think it’s crucial to note that all of these things are not directly part of the body. When Stelarc joins the machine to the body and implants in so that they are one thing, it does change the game a little.

    So I think it’s also appropriate that you suggested that we are creating a new species. And that is part of the scary aspect of posthumanism, the suggestion that we’re no longer human.

    My question becomes, however, does this really result in a loss of identity or does it just change what identity means to us? Because technically speaking, there will still be something to identify, it’s just different from the parameters we’re use to.

  2. I agree that Stelarc’s installations draw attention to specific characteristics of the human body, but I do not think he is trying to eliminate the boundaries of his body altogether. In particular, you address the installation that had wires and hooks in his skin, and point out that this further emphasized his skin. I believe this was intentional. Perhaps he is not trying to ‘eliminate’ the boundaries of the body, but push them, ignoring pain or discomfort to express his body and his skin as just another material. He wants to represent the body as malleable.

    In your second point, you assert that Stelarc’s attempt to overcome the body disregards its spectacular system. I agree with this point. Though innovative and interesting, Stelarc’s manipulations of the body into an objective material detract from the humanness of the human body. To ignore human pain is inhuman. And this very realization is one of the reasons why posthumanism is feared. We are worried that the human will be undermined. In Stelarc’s apparent disregard for his body’s natural physical limits, he is undermining his own humanity. Does this predict the future relationship between humans and their bodies? Our unease is derived from the truth of this possibility. In the future, the experiments that we presently view with discomfort and reluctance, may very well integrate into our lives as another norm.

  3. Furthering rcl12’s comment, Stelarc is often criticized exactly for that–disregarding embodiment by turning the body into a spectacle. However, I find it interesting that rcl12 places Stelarc’s undermining of humanity at “disregard for his body’s natural physical limits.” Broadly speaking, aren’t the same goals attributed to athletes? By attempting to break records, aren’t they seeking to surpass recognized limits? On the other hand, the subject of the natural body is obviously a big issue in sports. After all, we define very strictly what substances count as “natural” (vitamins) and “unnatural” (steroids) in an athlete’s pursuit of these limits.

    –MH


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