[-empyre-] the inadequate, the involuntary, the alternate...

Stelarc stelarc at va.com.au
Fri May 15 08:55:56 EST 2009

Hi Norah (Stomatia, Ashley, Christina, Alan, Sally Jane,  Erin,  
Johannes, Tim and Renato)-

Just to say that this posting will not be in sync with the most recent  
exchanges. I am staying in a hotel with very expensive internet access  
which I can't afford. And during the day I'm busy programming. Anyway,  
this was done last night and being sent morning, Sydney time!

I'm delighted to read the articulate and astute observations made by  
all of the participants about critical motion practice which have  
accumulated but remained unanswered in my In-box.

As a counterpoint to the ideas that have unfolded in these exchanges,  
perhaps the most appropriate contribution I can make is to suggest  
something other-  the experience of the body as  inadequate,   
involuntary and augmented. A body immersed in uncertainty, anxiety and  
ambivalence. A body that is absent from itself, empty in itself and  
exhausted by itself. This has generated ambivalence, uncertainty and  
anxiety. The body might be enabled and accelerated, but this only  
exposes and amplifies its obsolescence.

In an age of excess, the body needs to cope with mixed realities,  
telematic embrace and its chimeric other. It is an age of circulating  
flesh, fractal flesh and phantom flesh. It is also a time of  
multiplying and outmoded metaphysical assumptions still affirming the  
biological status-quo of the body or perpetuating disconcerting  
desires of out-of-body experiences. We still speak as if these bodies  
possess inner selves. As if speech is an outering from something inner.

Performances such as Fractal Flesh and Ping Body explored remote  
actuation of the body wired to a computer sequenced muscle stimulation  
system. In Fractal Flesh people in other places prompt the body to  
move. In Ping Body mapping the reverberating ping signal, measured in  
milliseconds is mapped to the body's musculature. The body moves as a  
crude barometer of internet activity. The body is seen as a split  
body. Voltage-in, to jerk the left arm and leg up and down and voltage- 
out, to actuate a mechanical third hand. The body moves, but not  
through space. Its task envelope is defined by its limb motion but the  
internet constructs it as an alternate and extended operational system.

Movatar was an inverse motion-capture system where an avatar, imbued  
with genetic algorithms, whose behavior varies during the performance,  
actuated the two arms using a pneumatically powered upper body  
exoskeleton. The body becomes  a prosthesis enabling the motion of an  
avatar in the real world. The body becomes both a possessed and  
performing body, simultaneously actuated and improvising. The body not  
as a single agency, but also a host for an artificial entity.

The performances were done in a posture of indifference. Indifference  
as opposed to expectation. Actions without anticipation. Moments  
without memory. Indifference to allow an unfolding of the performance  
in its own time, with its own rhythm. Ashley's space for the in- 
between not only connects but opens up. It's also a pause that allows  
for reflexion,  infection and interpretation. Perhaps this is a fatal  
moment and a moment of collapse.  Its what happens when there is a  
slippage between the intention and the action. A singularity in  
programming a robot occurs at a moment when, because of multiple  
possibilities, the robot can't choose which one to execute. What  
happens when a dancer stops but then can't start?

Best wishes-


Performance Artist

Chair in Performance Art
School of Arts
Brunel University West London

Senior Research Fellow & Artist in Residence
MARCS Laboratories
University of Western Sydney

Mobile: +61-408-437-517

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