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