[-empyre-] swarms, task envelopes, trajectories and displacements...

Stelarc stelarc at va.com.au
Sun May 17 10:52:41 EST 2009

Hi Tim and Ashley-

Thanks for suggesting alternate ideas, constructing additional  
meanings and relevance to what was written and prompting a further  

Much of what we do affirms and perpetuates outmoded assumptions and  
perceptions about the body. I just wanted to problematize it and try  
to re-think, if not re-figure what it means to be a body- in both form  
and function. (The "I" in these references  simply means "this" body.  
It is a huge metaphysical leap to assert anything inner, anything  

We should neither affirm the biological status quo of the body nor  
should we be mimicking machines. What is more interesting is to see  
the body now as an extended operational system of mixed realities in  
both proximal and remote spaces.

To augment and extend the body is not so much about enhancement but  
rather being able to perform with alternate capabilities and  
unexpected outcomes.

Indifference allows not mere entanglement of bodies and machines but  
their assemblage. These assemblages of body, machines and virtual  
systems are constantly changing with the trajectories,  intensities,  
rhythms and duration of operation. Indifference is necessary for an  
erasure of agency at the critical moment that allows a coupling. This  
coupling can result in Chimeric Flesh.

We are fascinated by the diverse locomotion of living things, of the  
flocking behavior of birds and the swarming behavior of insects. Of  
their complexity and seeming emergent behavior.  Aliveness is now  
enriched by the seductive, smooth and speedy motion of machines. Not  
only do living things move, but things now move too. Some relevant  
ideas that come to mind include   technology as the external organs of  
the body (McLuhan), the displacement of human capabilities into  
machines (Baudrillard) and the unexpected occurrences and accidents  
that occur with new technologies (Virilio). Accidents though seen in a  
more positive way,  as unscripted moments of possibilities and  

With Circulating Flesh, not only do bodies move but now bits of bodies  
are displaced from one body to another. Blood circulating in my body  
may tomorrow circulate in your body. Ova that have been stored are  
fertilized with sperm that has been unfrozen. The face of a cadaver  
becomes a third face on a recipient. Organs are extracted from one  
body and implanted into other bodies.  Organs in circulation. Organs  
in excess.  Organs awaiting bodies. Organs without bodies.

When I talk about Fractal Flesh I mean bodies and bits of bodies  
spatially separated but electronically connected, generating recurring  
patterns of interactivity at varying scales.

The proliferation of haptic devices on the internet will mean being  
able to generate potent physical presences of remote bodies and  
machines. To interact with force-feedback. Tele-presence becomes tele- 
existence when there are adequate feedback loops between a body and a  
robot. That is what's meant by Phantom Flesh.

Unexpected  kinds of bodily trajectories have been generated. Bodies  
coupled with machines, bodies contained in machines, machines inserted  
into bodies. The body once only seamlessly moved in space with a  
continuity of time. Now bodies are  violently launched, accelerated  
and propelled across time-zones. This is increasingly experienced as  
displacement. We are not going anywhere now but rather we are  
sometimes here, some times there. We are all differently enabled  
bodies on varying prosthetic trajectories extending our task envelopes  
beyond the proximal (beyond the boundaries of the skin and beyond the  
local space we inhabit) and becoming remote sensors and end-effectors  
for other bodies and surrogate machines in other places.

A prosthesis is not necessarily a sign of lack, but rather a symptom  
of excess. The HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) EMG controlled exoskeleton  
for example both prosthetically supports and actuates a disabled body  
or strengthens the musculature of normally functioning body.

Perhaps we need more singularities. More moments of implosion. More  
anxieties generated by indecision. Unable to choose, the body stops,  
the body can't move. The dance ends. Time to re-think.


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