Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Transhuman Transformers From Europe

by: Aaron Franz
transalchemy.com

I came across a very interesting article today. While researching ancient symbols of female fertility, I came across a piece from the TimesOnline about the Venus of Hohle Fels. See the whole article HERE.



The Venus itself is a carving made out of mammoth ivory which depicts a female figure with exaggerated sexual features. It was found in Germany last year, and has been determined to be 35,000 years old. The article makes frequent reference to two expert opinions on the carving, those of Dr. Conrad, of the University of Tübingen, and also Dr. Paul Mellars, of the University of Cambridge. At first they speak to the sexual significance of the carving. This is all quite interesting, but the best part of the article is near the end where the doctors mention the artifact's possible connection to the evolution of the human mind. The fact that this figure was found in Europe is of prime importance regarding this...

{Dr Conrad said that the Venus challenged previous views that “strong aggressive animals or shamanistic depictions dominate the Aurignacian art of Swabia, or even of Europe as a whole”.
Dr Mellars said that the discovery added to the evidence that “fully representational, figurative art seems at present to be a European phenomenon, without any documented parallels in Africa or elsewhere earlier than about 30,000 years ago”.
This, he said, could potentially be linked to the evolution of the modern human brain.}

So apparently Europe has had a bad rap, because people have associated it's ancient artwork with the depiction of mere animals. This notion is an insult as the article goes on to explain that the human figure was first depicted by European hands. The idea that that high art is a distinctly European phenomenon is implied. The real bombshell is when this is equated with the evolution of the human brain. It is quite clear what is being said here: Humanity evolved to a higher level of complexity within the geographical confines of what we now call the European continent.

{How far this ‘symbolic explosion’ associated with the origins and dispersal of our species reflects a major, mutation-driven reorganisation in the cognitive capacities of the human brain — perhaps associated with a similar leap forward in the complexity of language, remains a fascinating and contentious issue.}

According to these observations the Aurignacian period in which humans migrated to Europe was when the human brain itself made a profound evolutionary "great leap forward". If this is true, then what about Africa? This article pieces together bits of information which lead to a decidedly ethnocentric point of view, although if you aren't reading closely you may miss it. It uses expert opinions to get a very deliberate point across, and to be fair it may be using the quotes from these doctors to express an opinion that they did not intend during the time of their interview. However, the article itself cannot be ignored. It makes a very deliberate statement. The concept that the African continent has been forever stuck in the savage ways of primitive man is inferred. This of course is not a new idea, but rather a continuing theme throughout history.

The transhuman concept of cognitive evolution seems to pop up just about everywhere. It is very interesting to read an article such as this which makes overt reference to it. Of course, there may never have been a cognitive "great leap forward" thousands of years ago. We truly don't know. The important thing to notice is that pieces like this play to the perceived reality of such an event actually happening. The average reader takes the truth of this supposed historic occurrence for granted. The uncritical reader automatically assumes there WAS a mutation of the human brain somewhere in ancient history. Bits and pieces of history can be put together any way imaginable to tell a specific story. This story is told from an undeniably Anglocentric point of view. Obviously stories depend upon storytellers. Those who tell the story are in a unique position to construct it in such a way that it leads their audience to specific conclusions. History itself can be manipulated to fit a specific point of view, and it regularly is.


On a related note, the new Transformers film apparently depicts an extremely cartoonish and offensive stereotype of African Americans. What do you think the big Hollywood storytellers are trying to say with this? Is the Anglocentric theme of European superiority part of the message they wish to convey to a mass audience? Are they simply making a conceptual mistake? Is it wise to believe that such high profile storytellers would make such mistakes? What is a Transformer anyway?

TRANSform, TRANSmute, TRANScend... To take evolution to it's highest summit. Optimus Prime is leading the way. The Y... (split in 2)



Bookmark and Share

Transhuman Transformers From Europe

by: Aaron Franz
transalchemy.com

I came across a very interesting article today. While researching ancient symbols of female fertility, I came across a piece from the TimesOnline about the Venus of Hohle Fels. See the whole article HERE.



The Venus itself is a carving made out of mammoth ivory which depicts a female figure with exaggerated sexual features. It was found in Germany last year, and has been determined to be 35,000 years old. The article makes frequent reference to two expert opinions on the carving, those of Dr. Conrad, of the University of Tübingen, and also Dr. Paul Mellars, of the University of Cambridge. At first they speak to the sexual significance of the carving. This is all quite interesting, but the best part of the article is near the end where the doctors mention the artifact's possible connection to the evolution of the human mind. The fact that this figure was found in Europe is of prime importance regarding this...

{Dr Conrad said that the Venus challenged previous views that “strong aggressive animals or shamanistic depictions dominate the Aurignacian art of Swabia, or even of Europe as a whole”.
Dr Mellars said that the discovery added to the evidence that “fully representational, figurative art seems at present to be a European phenomenon, without any documented parallels in Africa or elsewhere earlier than about 30,000 years ago”.
This, he said, could potentially be linked to the evolution of the modern human brain.}

So apparently Europe has had a bad rap, because people have associated it's ancient artwork with the depiction of mere animals. This notion is an insult as the article goes on to explain that the human figure was first depicted by European hands. The idea that that high art is a distinctly European phenomenon is implied. The real bombshell is when this is equated with the evolution of the human brain. It is quite clear what is being said here: Humanity evolved to a higher level of complexity within the geographical confines of what we now call the European continent.

{How far this ‘symbolic explosion’ associated with the origins and dispersal of our species reflects a major, mutation-driven reorganisation in the cognitive capacities of the human brain — perhaps associated with a similar leap forward in the complexity of language, remains a fascinating and contentious issue.}

According to these observations the Aurignacian period in which humans migrated to Europe was when the human brain itself made a profound evolutionary "great leap forward". If this is true, then what about Africa? This article pieces together bits of information which lead to a decidedly ethnocentric point of view, although if you aren't reading closely you may miss it. It uses expert opinions to get a very deliberate point across, and to be fair it may be using the quotes from these doctors to express an opinion that they did not intend during the time of their interview. However, the article itself cannot be ignored. It makes a very deliberate statement. The concept that the African continent has been forever stuck in the savage ways of primitive man is inferred. This of course is not a new idea, but rather a continuing theme throughout history.

The transhuman concept of cognitive evolution seems to pop up just about everywhere. It is very interesting to read an article such as this which makes overt reference to it. Of course, there may never have been a cognitive "great leap forward" thousands of years ago. We truly don't know. The important thing to notice is that pieces like this play to the perceived reality of such an event actually happening. The average reader takes the truth of this supposed historic occurrence for granted. The uncritical reader automatically assumes there WAS a mutation of the human brain somewhere in ancient history. Bits and pieces of history can be put together any way imaginable to tell a specific story. This story is told from an undeniably Anglocentric point of view. Obviously stories depend upon storytellers. Those who tell the story are in a unique position to construct it in such a way that it leads their audience to specific conclusions. History itself can be manipulated to fit a specific point of view, and it regularly is.


On a related note, the new Transformers film apparently depicts an extremely cartoonish and offensive stereotype of African Americans. What do you think the big Hollywood storytellers are trying to say with this? Is the Anglocentric theme of European superiority part of the message they wish to convey to a mass audience? Are they simply making a conceptual mistake? Is it wise to believe that such high profile storytellers would make such mistakes? What is a Transformer anyway?

TRANSform, TRANSmute, TRANScend... To take evolution to it's highest summit. Optimus Prime is leading the way. The Y... (split in 2)



Bookmark and Share

Transhuman Transformers From Europe

by: Aaron Franz
transalchemy.com

I came across a very interesting article today. While researching ancient symbols of female fertility, I came across a piece from the TimesOnline about the Venus of Hohle Fels. See the whole article HERE.



The Venus itself is a carving made out of mammoth ivory which depicts a female figure with exaggerated sexual features. It was found in Germany last year, and has been determined to be 35,000 years old. The article makes frequent reference to two expert opinions on the carving, those of Dr. Conrad, of the University of Tübingen, and also Dr. Paul Mellars, of the University of Cambridge. At first they speak to the sexual significance of the carving. This is all quite interesting, but the best part of the article is near the end where the doctors mention the artifact's possible connection to the evolution of the human mind. The fact that this figure was found in Europe is of prime importance regarding this...

{Dr Conrad said that the Venus challenged previous views that “strong aggressive animals or shamanistic depictions dominate the Aurignacian art of Swabia, or even of Europe as a whole”.
Dr Mellars said that the discovery added to the evidence that “fully representational, figurative art seems at present to be a European phenomenon, without any documented parallels in Africa or elsewhere earlier than about 30,000 years ago”.
This, he said, could potentially be linked to the evolution of the modern human brain.}

So apparently Europe has had a bad rap, because people have associated it's ancient artwork with the depiction of mere animals. This notion is an insult as the article goes on to explain that the human figure was first depicted by European hands. The idea that that high art is a distinctly European phenomenon is implied. The real bombshell is when this is equated with the evolution of the human brain. It is quite clear what is being said here: Humanity evolved to a higher level of complexity within the geographical confines of what we now call the European continent.

{How far this ‘symbolic explosion’ associated with the origins and dispersal of our species reflects a major, mutation-driven reorganisation in the cognitive capacities of the human brain — perhaps associated with a similar leap forward in the complexity of language, remains a fascinating and contentious issue.}

According to these observations the Aurignacian period in which humans migrated to Europe was when the human brain itself made a profound evolutionary "great leap forward". If this is true, then what about Africa? This article pieces together bits of information which lead to a decidedly ethnocentric point of view, although if you aren't reading closely you may miss it. It uses expert opinions to get a very deliberate point across, and to be fair it may be using the quotes from these doctors to express an opinion that they did not intend during the time of their interview. However, the article itself cannot be ignored. It makes a very deliberate statement. The concept that the African continent has been forever stuck in the savage ways of primitive man is inferred. This of course is not a new idea, but rather a continuing theme throughout history.

The transhuman concept of cognitive evolution seems to pop up just about everywhere. It is very interesting to read an article such as this which makes overt reference to it. Of course, there may never have been a cognitive "great leap forward" thousands of years ago. We truly don't know. The important thing to notice is that pieces like this play to the perceived reality of such an event actually happening. The average reader takes the truth of this supposed historic occurrence for granted. The uncritical reader automatically assumes there WAS a mutation of the human brain somewhere in ancient history. Bits and pieces of history can be put together any way imaginable to tell a specific story. This story is told from an undeniably Anglocentric point of view. Obviously stories depend upon storytellers. Those who tell the story are in a unique position to construct it in such a way that it leads their audience to specific conclusions. History itself can be manipulated to fit a specific point of view, and it regularly is.


On a related note, the new Transformers film apparently depicts an extremely cartoonish and offensive stereotype of African Americans. What do you think the big Hollywood storytellers are trying to say with this? Is the Anglocentric theme of European superiority part of the message they wish to convey to a mass audience? Are they simply making a conceptual mistake? Is it wise to believe that such high profile storytellers would make such mistakes? What is a Transformer anyway?

TRANSform, TRANSmute, TRANScend... To take evolution to it's highest summit. Optimus Prime is leading the way. The Y... (split in 2)



Bookmark and Share

TransAlchemy Interviews Stelarc


Ear on Arm
Photographer- Nina
Sellars


STELARC



Stelarc is a performance artist who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. He has made 3 films of the inside of his body. Between 1976-1988 he completed 25 body suspension performances with hooks into the skin. He has used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body. He has performed with a THIRD HAND, a VIRTUAL ARM, a STOMACH SCULPTURE and EXOSKELETON, a 6-legged walking robot. His FRACTAL FLESH, PING BODY and PARASITE performances explored involuntary, remote and internet choreography of the body with electrical stimulation of the muscles. His PROSTHETIC HEAD is an embodied conversational agent that speaks to the person who interrogates it. He is surgically constructing an EXTRA EAR on his arm that will be internet enabled, making it publicly accessible acoustical organ for people in other places. He is presently performing as his avatar from his SECOND LIFE site.

In 1995
Stelarc received a three year Fellowship from The Visual Arts/ Craft Board, The Australia Council and in 2004 was awarded a two year New Media Arts Fellowship. In 1997 he was appointed Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. He was Artist-In-Residence for Hamburg City in 1997. In 2000 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Laws by Monash University. He has completed Visiting Artist positions in Art and Technology, at the Faculty of Art and Design at Ohio State University in Columbus in 2002, 2003 & 2004. He has been Principal Research Fellow in the Performance Arts Digital Research Unit and a Visiting Professor at The Nottingham Trent University, UK. He is currently
Chair in Performance Art, School of Arts,
Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK. He is also Senior Research Fellow and Visiting Artist at the MARCS Lab at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Stelarc’s artwork is represented by the SCOTT LIVESEY GALLERIES in Melbourne.


Sitting / Swaying: Event for Rock Suspension
Photographer- Keisuke Oki



Why do you believe the human body is obsolete? What is the alternative?

This body is obsolete, absent, empty and performs largely involuntarily. I guess in retrospect, the suspension performances physically exhaust the body and expose its inadequacies and its limitations. The body has always been inadequate. This obsolete, absent and empty body needs to be augmented. It constructs instruments and machines to better perceive and manipulate the world. It's curiosity is amplified and further desires are generated. The media, machine and technological terrain that we inhabit generally outperforms the human body in speed, precision and power. We have taken an ergonomic approach in designing our instruments in the past, to deal with the limitations of our bodies-with the acuity of our sight, the responsiveness of our fingers and dealing with human fatigue. It's now time to redesign the body to better match the capabilities of its technology.

Your art involves the manipulation of your body via electronic controls. If humans begin augmenting themselves with brain chips and cybernetics doesn't it seem obvious that outside manipulation would occur?

There are always social consequences for new technologies. Paul Virilio alerts us that with every new technology there is a new kind of accident. It need not be merely a negative outcome though. The realm of the accident is also the realm of the unexpected, of the surprising occurrence. Of new possibilities. Malicious intent is an indictment of our species as much as it due to the power and destructive capabilities of the technology. The experience of the involuntary in the performances is also the experience of a split body, of a body with multiple agency. Not as a pathological condition or of malicious control but of the body being a host for remote agents. We are not only in an age of mixed and augmented realities but also of bodies with multiple agencies. Fractal Flesh is when bodies and bits of bodies remotely separated but electronically connected are able to physically interact. Phantom Flesh is when we can generate potent physical presence of remote bodies with haptic technologies that are proliferating on the internet. Implanted brain chips provide the possibilities not only of amplifying our cortical capabilities, but also allow interfaces for more intimate connectivity. These projects and performances play with the possibilities of connectivity rather than the possibilities of malicious control.



Skin for Prosthetic Head
Image- Barrett Fox


You say that we (humans) have never had minds of our own. If we've never had our own minds, then who has?

Not only have we already become cyborg bodies but we have always been zombies, without a mind of our own nor any mind at all in the traditional metaphysical sense. No-one has a mind. There is nothing inside my head. There are no ideas inside my head. There are no images inside my head. There are no memories inside my head. These are generated by my interaction with the world. What's important is not what happens within us but what happens between us, in the medium of language in which we communicate, in the social institutions that we inhabit, in the culture that we've been conditioned. (When this body says "I" or "my" it says so as a language construct. "I" only indicates this body. It's a huge metaphysical leap to imagine it refers to something inner that owns or actuates the body.

Do you believe in a higher form of existence outside the body? If so, could such existence be considered spiritual?

With the possibility of other habitable planets and multiple universes, we can't discount more complex and diverse life-forms that have alternate awareness and perhaps operate more intricately. Would such life-forms be more intelligent? Perhaps. Although what it means to be intelligent is both a situational and contextual evaluation. I might be an intelligent quantum mechanics physicist but an uninteresting artist. If by spiritual you mean more subtle behavior, then OK. If by spiritual you mean mystical or divine, then that's a personal and arbitrary metaphysical choice. What's "outside" the body are other bodies, things and social structures. The higher form of existence outside the body happens between bodies...


Handswriting
Photographer-
Keisuke Ok

The further development of converging technologies will destroy our established notions of civil liberties and privacy. I see you playing to this theme, especially with "The Extra Ear." Isn't our privacy something worth holding onto?

What now becomes important is not our identity but rather our interfaces. Not our mobility but our connectivity. We need more surveillance, not less surveillance. But we need it inside the body. The body has no early alert warning system that alerts us to pathological changes in chemistry,temperature and cell-growth. Nano-sensors might detect and alert us that something is wrong at a cellular and intracellular level. Nano-bots would more precisely deliver medication and might better manage excising of tumorous growths or blockages in our circulatory systems. The Ear on Arm will become a mobile and accessible acoustical organ. Although it is constructed on this arm it will enable people in other places to hear what the ear is listening to. We have evolved soft internal organs to better function as a body in the natural world. We can now engineer additional and external Internet organs to better interface and operate in the media terrain that we now inhabit.

What has led you to believe that the constructs of mind, soul, and self-hood are *completely* obsolete and non-nonfunctional in our present reality, rather than *partially* or even *potentially* obsolete and non-functional?"

Oh, I'd word it differently. Mind, soul and self-hood are social and language constructs. They are arbitrary and convenient constructs. They describe and are indicative of certain subtle body behaviour. The are not some intrinsic essence. These are words that equate with a homunculus construct. It's not an issue of obsolescence but of non-existence. Nietzsche asserts that there is no being behind the doing. (Agency is what we attribute to an act in retrospect). Wittgenstein reveals that thinking occurs on the paper upon which you write. (Thinking is not what happens simply inside your head). What's important is what happens between us, not within us, in the medium of language in which we communicate, in the social institution in which we operate and in the culture that we've been conditioned.





Exoskeleton
Photographer- Igor
Skafar


What is your personal definition of what it means to be human?


Well, perhaps what it means to be human is not to remain human. To strive for the other, for the alternate has always been a human trait. One can argue we have always been prosthetic bodies. That what it means to be human has been largely determined by our cultural artifacts and our technologies. Alfred Whitehead said that our imaginations are only as good as our instruments. New technologies generate unexpected information and images which destabilize our paradigms of the world and what it means to be a body. When this person speaks about a body it is a body that is a physiological, phenomenological, interacting and aware entity in the world. Or thought differently space and time is how the body experiences the world (Kant) or that the body is a manifestation of the world, rather than merely inhabiting the world (Merleau-Ponty).

-Are you familiar with the transhumanist movement and if so what is your personal take on this? Will they be able to achieve a total transcendence of there physical selves?

The Third Hand
Photographer- Simon Hunter
Yes, I am generally familiar with Transhumanism. Max More and Natasha Vita-More, the founders of the Extropy Institute, are good friends. I don’t know about transcendence, but certainly we can transform our bodies after death. Actually the last time I was invited to speak at a Transhumanist conference was in Toronto. There was a representative of a cryonics company there that was offering policies for preserving your body after death. When I indicated it was too expensive for me he was not perturbed and offered to freeze my head for only a fraction of the price! There’s also a company on the West Coast who will compress the carbon of your cremated ashes to produce a diamond for your loved one. That would not be a transcendence but certainly a useful transformation of your body remains after death. Or perhaps just plastinate your body as a sculptural exhibit. Much more interesting than any
transcendence. Perhaps your avatar automaton can forever inhabit virtual spaces in electronic media. I've been performing as my avatar in Second Life from my SL site- http://tr.im/jFGN. And in the early 90's I was performing with a Virtual Arm and a Virtual Body. This involved gesture recognition and real-time motion capture. What's interesting are these alternate actual-virtual interfaces and performative possibilities that can be engineered. As for the idea of achieving a total transcendence of our physical selves, well that's the wrong question to ask. To be an intelligent agent we need to be not only embodied but also embedded in the world. Of course we can be differently embodied. With might be embodied with a bodily lack (operating with less than 4 limbs), or in excess (with a Third Hand or a Virtual Arm). We might be augmented by an artificial heart or accelerated by machine. Or our bodies might function with replacement parts- an artificial heat or a transplanted face. "A total transcendence of our physical selves" is a contradiction in terms. What constitutes and constructs ourselves are our physical bodies. It doesn't have to be this body. Or only one body. Or a carbon chemistry body. It might be a silicon chip circuitry body. It might be a swarm of nano-bots morphing into differently shaped bodies. But it has to be some body.



How far are you willing to go with your art? If presented with the ability to upload your mind into a machine would you?

You go as far as you need to ha, ha. As far as you can. Well, the idea of uploading your mind into a machine is inadequate and contentious in a number of ways. Especially since this person is asserting there is no mind in a body- the way we conveniently construct it. Also any information transferred about this body (not from within this body) would need to be contextualized with social information and our cultural conditioning for that personal data to be meaningful. I would characterize what would happen not so much as a transfer of mind from a biological body to a machine but rather as a reconstruction of a biological body as a machine knowing what we know about the body and its social and cultural context. Furthermore, what we describe as identity and memory is not simply the result of what we conveniently construct as mind, but is also the way we walk, the sound of our voice, our facial mannerisms and our emotional expression. Not to mention intricate webs of relationships with other bodies and things. That’s quite a lot to upload, map and contextualize...

-Do you see your art as the start of a greater movement?


Artistic practice is the realm of exploring, experimenting and exposing. It is about ambivalence, ambiguity and the slippage between intention and actuality. It is not simplistically an act of affirmation but of generating anxiety and uncertainty. Of accidents and surprises. That's what artists have always been doing and will continue to do as an integral part of being curious and creative. These projects and performances are tentative explorations in media, machinic and virtual augmentation of the body. There will be increasing interest in modifying the body, in redesigning the body, in engineering alternate and hybrid bodies which result in a diversification of the human phylum and a splitting of the species. This will not be the outcome of eugenic engineering but rather by individually driven bodies. What will be interesting are these alternate anatomical architectures. Chimeric bodies that are combinations of biological, machine and virtual systems.



Walking Head
Photographer- Stelarc


What inspired you to do what you do?


I began performing when I discovered I was a really bad painter in art school. I've always been envious of gymnists, dancers and singers who use their bodies both as a mode of expression and a means of experience. I was also interested in the body as an evolutionary architecture, the apparatus for perceiving, operating and manipulating the world. It has always been inadequate doing this. So what's interesting is how the body, augmented by its instruments, accelerated by its machines and amplified by its computers becomes an extended operational system. The body now performs beyond the boundaries of its skin and beyond the local space that it inhabits.


-What do see the human race morphing into with the added ability to modify itself?


Well, we are inhabiting an age of circulating flesh. The face of the cadaver is displaced, stretched and stitched to another head. The blood flowing in my body today may be flowing in your body tomorrow. Organs are extracted from one body and transplanted into another. Ova are fertilized by sperm that is unfrozen. Fertilized eggs are frozen and await reanimation. We can preserve a body indefinitely through plastination. A dead body need not decompose. Simultanously we can sustain a comatose body connected to a life-support system. And we can engineer partially living entities in-vitro whilst we can extra stem cells and reinject them to repair a body in-vivo. There is the possibility of stem-cell growing organs and of printing organs. The dead, the non-dead and the not yet living exist simultaneously. We live in an age of the Cadaver, the Comatose and the Chimera. Rather than morphing into a single other, the human species will split into a multiplicity of body forms and functions. Simultaneously Zombies and Cyborgs. Of hybrid human-machine systems, of chimeras operating with mixed realities. A proliferation of actual-virtual interfaces, seamlessly slipping between genetic inclination and engineered desires. Cyborg bodies might be augmented by exoskeletons and manga-machines, bodies might become hosts for micro-miniaturized machines and nano-bots (the body looks the same, feels the same but internally it is augmented), or biological bodies are connected and can haptically communicate and collaborate with the internet as an external nervous system. There are a multiplicity of diverse possibilities- of contestable futures. The future never comes, it is incessantly becoming other. The future never is because it can never be imagined. The future is never achieved because possibilities always collapse into actualities.



Split Body: Voltage-in / Voltage-out
Photographer- Igor Andjelic

For more information visit Stelarc's web site here



Bookmark and Share

TransAlchemy Interviews Stelarc


Ear on Arm
Photographer- Nina
Sellars


STELARC



Stelarc is a performance artist who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. He has made 3 films of the inside of his body. Between 1976-1988 he completed 25 body suspension performances with hooks into the skin. He has used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body. He has performed with a THIRD HAND, a VIRTUAL ARM, a STOMACH SCULPTURE and EXOSKELETON, a 6-legged walking robot. His FRACTAL FLESH, PING BODY and PARASITE performances explored involuntary, remote and internet choreography of the body with electrical stimulation of the muscles. His PROSTHETIC HEAD is an embodied conversational agent that speaks to the person who interrogates it. He is surgically constructing an EXTRA EAR on his arm that will be internet enabled, making it publicly accessible acoustical organ for people in other places. He is presently performing as his avatar from his SECOND LIFE site.

In 1995
Stelarc received a three year Fellowship from The Visual Arts/ Craft Board, The Australia Council and in 2004 was awarded a two year New Media Arts Fellowship. In 1997 he was appointed Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. He was Artist-In-Residence for Hamburg City in 1997. In 2000 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Laws by Monash University. He has completed Visiting Artist positions in Art and Technology, at the Faculty of Art and Design at Ohio State University in Columbus in 2002, 2003 & 2004. He has been Principal Research Fellow in the Performance Arts Digital Research Unit and a Visiting Professor at The Nottingham Trent University, UK. He is currently
Chair in Performance Art, School of Arts,
Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK. He is also Senior Research Fellow and Visiting Artist at the MARCS Lab at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Stelarc’s artwork is represented by the SCOTT LIVESEY GALLERIES in Melbourne.


Sitting / Swaying: Event for Rock Suspension
Photographer- Keisuke Oki



Why do you believe the human body is obsolete? What is the alternative?

This body is obsolete, absent, empty and performs largely involuntarily. I guess in retrospect, the suspension performances physically exhaust the body and expose its inadequacies and its limitations. The body has always been inadequate. This obsolete, absent and empty body needs to be augmented. It constructs instruments and machines to better perceive and manipulate the world. It's curiosity is amplified and further desires are generated. The media, machine and technological terrain that we inhabit generally outperforms the human body in speed, precision and power. We have taken an ergonomic approach in designing our instruments in the past, to deal with the limitations of our bodies-with the acuity of our sight, the responsiveness of our fingers and dealing with human fatigue. It's now time to redesign the body to better match the capabilities of its technology.

Your art involves the manipulation of your body via electronic controls. If humans begin augmenting themselves with brain chips and cybernetics doesn't it seem obvious that outside manipulation would occur?

There are always social consequences for new technologies. Paul Virilio alerts us that with every new technology there is a new kind of accident. It need not be merely a negative outcome though. The realm of the accident is also the realm of the unexpected, of the surprising occurrence. Of new possibilities. Malicious intent is an indictment of our species as much as it due to the power and destructive capabilities of the technology. The experience of the involuntary in the performances is also the experience of a split body, of a body with multiple agency. Not as a pathological condition or of malicious control but of the body being a host for remote agents. We are not only in an age of mixed and augmented realities but also of bodies with multiple agencies. Fractal Flesh is when bodies and bits of bodies remotely separated but electronically connected are able to physically interact. Phantom Flesh is when we can generate potent physical presence of remote bodies with haptic technologies that are proliferating on the internet. Implanted brain chips provide the possibilities not only of amplifying our cortical capabilities, but also allow interfaces for more intimate connectivity. These projects and performances play with the possibilities of connectivity rather than the possibilities of malicious control.



Skin for Prosthetic Head
Image- Barrett Fox


You say that we (humans) have never had minds of our own. If we've never had our own minds, then who has?

Not only have we already become cyborg bodies but we have always been zombies, without a mind of our own nor any mind at all in the traditional metaphysical sense. No-one has a mind. There is nothing inside my head. There are no ideas inside my head. There are no images inside my head. There are no memories inside my head. These are generated by my interaction with the world. What's important is not what happens within us but what happens between us, in the medium of language in which we communicate, in the social institutions that we inhabit, in the culture that we've been conditioned. (When this body says "I" or "my" it says so as a language construct. "I" only indicates this body. It's a huge metaphysical leap to imagine it refers to something inner that owns or actuates the body.

Do you believe in a higher form of existence outside the body? If so, could such existence be considered spiritual?

With the possibility of other habitable planets and multiple universes, we can't discount more complex and diverse life-forms that have alternate awareness and perhaps operate more intricately. Would such life-forms be more intelligent? Perhaps. Although what it means to be intelligent is both a situational and contextual evaluation. I might be an intelligent quantum mechanics physicist but an uninteresting artist. If by spiritual you mean more subtle behavior, then OK. If by spiritual you mean mystical or divine, then that's a personal and arbitrary metaphysical choice. What's "outside" the body are other bodies, things and social structures. The higher form of existence outside the body happens between bodies...


Handswriting
Photographer-
Keisuke Ok

The further development of converging technologies will destroy our established notions of civil liberties and privacy. I see you playing to this theme, especially with "The Extra Ear." Isn't our privacy something worth holding onto?

What now becomes important is not our identity but rather our interfaces. Not our mobility but our connectivity. We need more surveillance, not less surveillance. But we need it inside the body. The body has no early alert warning system that alerts us to pathological changes in chemistry,temperature and cell-growth. Nano-sensors might detect and alert us that something is wrong at a cellular and intracellular level. Nano-bots would more precisely deliver medication and might better manage excising of tumorous growths or blockages in our circulatory systems. The Ear on Arm will become a mobile and accessible acoustical organ. Although it is constructed on this arm it will enable people in other places to hear what the ear is listening to. We have evolved soft internal organs to better function as a body in the natural world. We can now engineer additional and external Internet organs to better interface and operate in the media terrain that we now inhabit.

What has led you to believe that the constructs of mind, soul, and self-hood are *completely* obsolete and non-nonfunctional in our present reality, rather than *partially* or even *potentially* obsolete and non-functional?"

Oh, I'd word it differently. Mind, soul and self-hood are social and language constructs. They are arbitrary and convenient constructs. They describe and are indicative of certain subtle body behaviour. The are not some intrinsic essence. These are words that equate with a homunculus construct. It's not an issue of obsolescence but of non-existence. Nietzsche asserts that there is no being behind the doing. (Agency is what we attribute to an act in retrospect). Wittgenstein reveals that thinking occurs on the paper upon which you write. (Thinking is not what happens simply inside your head). What's important is what happens between us, not within us, in the medium of language in which we communicate, in the social institution in which we operate and in the culture that we've been conditioned.





Exoskeleton
Photographer- Igor
Skafar


What is your personal definition of what it means to be human?


Well, perhaps what it means to be human is not to remain human. To strive for the other, for the alternate has always been a human trait. One can argue we have always been prosthetic bodies. That what it means to be human has been largely determined by our cultural artifacts and our technologies. Alfred Whitehead said that our imaginations are only as good as our instruments. New technologies generate unexpected information and images which destabilize our paradigms of the world and what it means to be a body. When this person speaks about a body it is a body that is a physiological, phenomenological, interacting and aware entity in the world. Or thought differently space and time is how the body experiences the world (Kant) or that the body is a manifestation of the world, rather than merely inhabiting the world (Merleau-Ponty).

-Are you familiar with the transhumanist movement and if so what is your personal take on this? Will they be able to achieve a total transcendence of there physical selves?

The Third Hand
Photographer- Simon Hunter
Yes, I am generally familiar with Transhumanism. Max More and Natasha Vita-More, the founders of the Extropy Institute, are good friends. I don’t know about transcendence, but certainly we can transform our bodies after death. Actually the last time I was invited to speak at a Transhumanist conference was in Toronto. There was a representative of a cryonics company there that was offering policies for preserving your body after death. When I indicated it was too expensive for me he was not perturbed and offered to freeze my head for only a fraction of the price! There’s also a company on the West Coast who will compress the carbon of your cremated ashes to produce a diamond for your loved one. That would not be a transcendence but certainly a useful transformation of your body remains after death. Or perhaps just plastinate your body as a sculptural exhibit. Much more interesting than any
transcendence. Perhaps your avatar automaton can forever inhabit virtual spaces in electronic media. I've been performing as my avatar in Second Life from my SL site- http://tr.im/jFGN. And in the early 90's I was performing with a Virtual Arm and a Virtual Body. This involved gesture recognition and real-time motion capture. What's interesting are these alternate actual-virtual interfaces and performative possibilities that can be engineered. As for the idea of achieving a total transcendence of our physical selves, well that's the wrong question to ask. To be an intelligent agent we need to be not only embodied but also embedded in the world. Of course we can be differently embodied. With might be embodied with a bodily lack (operating with less than 4 limbs), or in excess (with a Third Hand or a Virtual Arm). We might be augmented by an artificial heart or accelerated by machine. Or our bodies might function with replacement parts- an artificial heat or a transplanted face. "A total transcendence of our physical selves" is a contradiction in terms. What constitutes and constructs ourselves are our physical bodies. It doesn't have to be this body. Or only one body. Or a carbon chemistry body. It might be a silicon chip circuitry body. It might be a swarm of nano-bots morphing into differently shaped bodies. But it has to be some body.



How far are you willing to go with your art? If presented with the ability to upload your mind into a machine would you?

You go as far as you need to ha, ha. As far as you can. Well, the idea of uploading your mind into a machine is inadequate and contentious in a number of ways. Especially since this person is asserting there is no mind in a body- the way we conveniently construct it. Also any information transferred about this body (not from within this body) would need to be contextualized with social information and our cultural conditioning for that personal data to be meaningful. I would characterize what would happen not so much as a transfer of mind from a biological body to a machine but rather as a reconstruction of a biological body as a machine knowing what we know about the body and its social and cultural context. Furthermore, what we describe as identity and memory is not simply the result of what we conveniently construct as mind, but is also the way we walk, the sound of our voice, our facial mannerisms and our emotional expression. Not to mention intricate webs of relationships with other bodies and things. That’s quite a lot to upload, map and contextualize...

-Do you see your art as the start of a greater movement?


Artistic practice is the realm of exploring, experimenting and exposing. It is about ambivalence, ambiguity and the slippage between intention and actuality. It is not simplistically an act of affirmation but of generating anxiety and uncertainty. Of accidents and surprises. That's what artists have always been doing and will continue to do as an integral part of being curious and creative. These projects and performances are tentative explorations in media, machinic and virtual augmentation of the body. There will be increasing interest in modifying the body, in redesigning the body, in engineering alternate and hybrid bodies which result in a diversification of the human phylum and a splitting of the species. This will not be the outcome of eugenic engineering but rather by individually driven bodies. What will be interesting are these alternate anatomical architectures. Chimeric bodies that are combinations of biological, machine and virtual systems.



Walking Head
Photographer- Stelarc


What inspired you to do what you do?


I began performing when I discovered I was a really bad painter in art school. I've always been envious of gymnists, dancers and singers who use their bodies both as a mode of expression and a means of experience. I was also interested in the body as an evolutionary architecture, the apparatus for perceiving, operating and manipulating the world. It has always been inadequate doing this. So what's interesting is how the body, augmented by its instruments, accelerated by its machines and amplified by its computers becomes an extended operational system. The body now performs beyond the boundaries of its skin and beyond the local space that it inhabits.


-What do see the human race morphing into with the added ability to modify itself?


Well, we are inhabiting an age of circulating flesh. The face of the cadaver is displaced, stretched and stitched to another head. The blood flowing in my body today may be flowing in your body tomorrow. Organs are extracted from one body and transplanted into another. Ova are fertilized by sperm that is unfrozen. Fertilized eggs are frozen and await reanimation. We can preserve a body indefinitely through plastination. A dead body need not decompose. Simultanously we can sustain a comatose body connected to a life-support system. And we can engineer partially living entities in-vitro whilst we can extra stem cells and reinject them to repair a body in-vivo. There is the possibility of stem-cell growing organs and of printing organs. The dead, the non-dead and the not yet living exist simultaneously. We live in an age of the Cadaver, the Comatose and the Chimera. Rather than morphing into a single other, the human species will split into a multiplicity of body forms and functions. Simultaneously Zombies and Cyborgs. Of hybrid human-machine systems, of chimeras operating with mixed realities. A proliferation of actual-virtual interfaces, seamlessly slipping between genetic inclination and engineered desires. Cyborg bodies might be augmented by exoskeletons and manga-machines, bodies might become hosts for micro-miniaturized machines and nano-bots (the body looks the same, feels the same but internally it is augmented), or biological bodies are connected and can haptically communicate and collaborate with the internet as an external nervous system. There are a multiplicity of diverse possibilities- of contestable futures. The future never comes, it is incessantly becoming other. The future never is because it can never be imagined. The future is never achieved because possibilities always collapse into actualities.



Split Body: Voltage-in / Voltage-out
Photographer- Igor Andjelic

For more information visit Stelarc's web site here



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My Riddles

Dear Antz Particleion Is Hacking your Universe (live)

I will give your universe/Mind back to you if you answer my riddles.

Call your answers in!

(305) 735-9490

A) Is your universe real?

B) Are you real?

C) Who currently has {source}?

D) What is {Root}?

When you got the answer email it to

Key.universe@gmail.com

and I will give you back your universe assuming your right ;-)

Rules subject to change but will be posted.

`

! It will be Billions of years till I let you just have it... Till then I urge you try to get your key back.