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Stelarc performing "Ping Body"

Stelarc’s “Ping Body”

For Stelarc, the human body is something that is just beyond the conventional image of being a passive entity. The body becomes much more than just a passive agent of flesh and blood. In his array of performance works, the human body takes on an active role of being a malleable medium and “Ping Body” is no exception to this. What seems so striking about this work, is just how readily Stelarc gives up control of his body to anonymous users over the Internet. It is as though the artist acknowledges that one cannot have full control over the self, and embraces this vulnerability with open arms.

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Shrouded in darkness amidst blinking monitors and noises from machine interfaces, Stelarc’s body convulses, twists and turns. One gets the impression of how the body is unsure of what it is doing, or rather, that the body is no longer under the control of the artist. Arms, legs and hands flail about with the accompaniment of noises from the machine interfaces, painting a picture of some sort of reanimation being underway. It is as though Stelarc is creating a space for both the body and technology to become aware of one another.

Perhaps it is this vulnerability of the human body that becomes readily apparent as Man continues onward to further mesh himself with Machine. Stelarc is literally wired up to a live system, which continually dictates his every movement, action and reaction via electrical signals. In this day and age, these signals are very much like the stimuli we receive everyday via media (i.e. smartphones,  computers, television, iPods, etc).  The physical tethers (ie. the wires, cables) seen in Stelarc’s “Ping Body” are still very much real today in our daily lives(i.e. chargers for electronic devies, head/earpieces, underground fibre cables for Internet connections). Even as we march onwards towards wireless systems, we are in fact more closely wired to the very machines we make use of.

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A body held in stasis, waiting for input.

Who are you? Who slips into my robot body and whispers to my ghost?

– tagline from “Ghost in the Shell” (1995)

It is interesting to note how this idea of the body being a host to an external device or influence is reflected in mainstream cinema today. Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell” and the Wachowski Brothers’ “The Matrix” come to mind as being effective in putting across this idea of Man being the servant to Machine, and the notion of a society where Man and Machine continually compete for dominance and power.

Source: collider.com
Source: collider.com
Screengrab from "The Matrix"
Screengrab from “The Matrix

Stelarc’s “Ping Body” thus becomes a poetry piece for our generation and the next. The body becomes the puppet, and technology becomes the puppeteer. The body turns into a host to serve the whims of it’s master. A frightening thought, yet the possibilities of what can be accomplished with a fusion of Man and Machine remain relatively endless. With the speed at which technological advancements are being today in this day and age, one cannot entirely rule out the creation of living and breathing cyborgs just yet.

Interested in reading more about Stelarc’s “Ping Body”? Check out Dazedream for more!

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Hole in Space

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“Hole in Space” opens the proverbial door into a world where Man makes contact with Man via this hole, which only exists in a virtual space. In the work, artists Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz created a portal, allowing people on the east coast and the west coast of the United States to communicate with each other in real time, while being able to both see and hear one another.

At the time, such a work seemed so unreal and so out of the ordinary, as participants in the work actively engaged each other via this virtual space to reach out to those existing in the real space on the other end of this hole in space. For that moment, both participants on either side of the hole were connected to one another. The added bonus of people being able to not only see but to also be able to hear and talk to those on the other end elevates this unique moment to greater heights in the realm of what was originally though to be impossible.

The real spaces on both ends become connected via a virtual space (the hole), which is not bound to any form of limitation. This virtual space becomes an entity of it’s own, allowing for the constant two-way feedback and projection of video and audio to both parties on either ends of the hole. In a way, this establishment of a connection between two sides which seems very real, becomes even more mind-boggling by the fact that this conenction is sustained by something that exists in a space which is not grounded in reality, or rather, a space which exists solely in the virtual realm.

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Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, "Hole-in-Space", 1980, Video documentation
Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, “Hole-in-Space”, 1980, Video documentation

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“Hole-in-Space” is a quintessential work which was highly effective in tearing down the idea that the Real and the Virtual spaces need not be separate, by actually creating this illusion of a hole torn in space which broadcast and carried feedback from both ends of the open real spaces. This becomes a milestone and in some ways, a cultural achievement in predicting the trend of things to come, as people have continued to attempt to bridge the gap between the Real and the Virtual space. “Hole-in-Space” becomes an example of a hybrid, born from the fusion between the real and the Virtual, where Man makes first contact with himself via medium which is yet to be fully grasped and understood in finite terms.

Click here to access an extended section of the analysis.

References:

Benford, Steve, and Gabriella Giannachi. Performing Mixed Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011. Print.

Larry press. “A Hole in Space LA-NY, 1980 — the mother of all video chats.” Online video clip. YouTube, 6 December 2013. Web. 27 January 2014.