Stelarc is a Greek-Australian performance artist whose guiding light is one basic principle: this bag of flesh we walk around in, the human body, is outdated. Obsolete. Past the point of maximum utility.
As simple as it is, it’s a mind-melting end game to an entire cyborg/transhumanist school of thought. It’s not just that we can make our human bodies, long held as more or less perfect by humanist philosophers, better than they are now by adding machines. Stelarc posits that our bodies are legitimately holding us back.
Motherboard caught up with Stelarc in 2009 while he was setting up a retrospective exhibition of his works at the Centre Des Arts in Paris. We had the curious joy of interviewing him while he was essentially strapped to a pole mounted on top of a massive six-legged dancing robot, and discussed his thoughts on the entire cyborg movement. As an added bonus, we acquired lots of archival footage from his past performances, including a number of robo dance pieces from the mid-nineties.
Oh, and that third ear thing? Well, yeah, Stelarc has a third ear. He implanted it in his forearm, of course. The idea is to create an artificial ear with an implanted microphone that’s internet-enabled. Stelarc explains that with the ear hooked up to a wireless network, he can broadcast his own auditory experiences to anyone worldwide. It’s an interesting take on the idea of expanding the realm of one’s body through internet-connected robotic appendages, like Kevin Warwick’s networked robot hand.
So, like, what does it all mean? Watch the documentary and try to decide for yourself. But we’ll say this: watching Stelarc’s quirky, jerky performances are a reminder that, as we increasingly become reliant on machines to the point that they are becoming integral parts of us, the concert played between us and our devices is becoming increasingly intermeshed and refined.