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

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Sat May 16 00:46:29 EST 2009

>Hey, Stelarc,

Thanks so much for your fascinating post (sorry 
that -empyre- has no funds for subvention for 
guests staying in hotels with pricey internet 

I'm fascinated by your emphasis on the body as 
"something other-  the experience of the body as 
inadequate,   involuntary and augmented. A body 
immersed in uncertainty, anxiety and 
ambivalence."  This does indeed suggest that 
there's something exceptionally 'critical' in 
your motion practice that engages  with what you 
call "an age of circulating  flesh, fractal flesh 
and phantom flesh."

Particularly critical, it seems to me, is your 
performative intervention in networked (as 
opposed to 'bare') life.  To revert to Ashley's 
phrase, what does it mean when motion practice is 
inscribed in the in-between, when it consists of, 
reflects on the technological interfaces the 
interfaces, the tracks, the pings that enable us 

Also interesting is your suggestion that, within 
the scope of the network, which encompasses both 
the daily activities of -empyre- and the 
technological interfaces of choreography,  "the 
body becomes both a possessed and  performing 
body, simultaneously actuated and improvising. 
The body not as a single, intentional agency, but 
as a host for an artificial entity."  This would 
certainly entail what you call an "indifference," 
and, here, indifference would envelope 
traditional attitudes of performance and 
theatrical perspective that are organized around 
the centrality of "the subject" as organizing 
principle, not merely as interactive host.

I might have mentioned on -empyre- once before 
that Jean-François Lyotard used to tell me that 
indifference is the most effective form of 
terrorism.  Here terror could involve a 
choreographic intervention that foregrounds the 
prominence of the unsettling prosthesis in an age 
of otherwise willed alignment.

Perhaps what once served as the engine of 
transubstantial transcendence or spiritual 
alignment, "the host," now works as a provocative 
trope of the state of the body as a prosthetic 

Thanks so much for joining in.


>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
>empyre forum
>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Timothy Murray
Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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