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Hole In Space – Bridging People In The Third Space

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Hole In Space was an installation piece presented to the public in 1980. It was based on satellite video technology and life size projection of images screened at Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts in New York City, and The Broadway department store in Los Angeles.

See the installation below:

The work was both technologically and conceptually ahead of its time. The seamless projection of a real time video feed on the walls of the two buildings was done before the advent of webcam and Internet technologies we enjoy today. The fact that the public participants experienced a suspension of disbelief, fully immersed in the interactive experience, hardly feeling that they were speaking to a screen, speaks volumes about the technical refinement of the project.

Conceptually, the project ties in with the idea of the Third Space. Beyond just merely watching the video feed, participants who stood before the projection were remotely interacting and having conversations with complete strangers on the other side of the country. They were essentially entering a Third Space, in essence a non-material and  psychological realm where they have conjoined together; interacting and communicating with one another.

In ways, the project can be seen as a precursor to what we have today in terms of webcam and real time video technologies like Skype or Apple’s FaceTime. These technologies symbolically allow us to break down constrains of time and geography, expanding our abilities to distribute and broadcast our ideas, speech, identities etc. across a potentially widespread audience.

Where these technologies were only previously available to large broadcast companies like cable networks and television stations, resulting in a more “one to many” channel of communication, the ease and accessibility of such technology today has resulted in a “many to many” type of communication.

Overall, Hole In Space represents an interesting point in the history of the interactive installation art for breaking new ground and presenting a new and emotive mode of interpersonal communications that had never been experienced before.

Quick Thoughts on Stelarc’s Lecture

It’s always an interesting experience to see what you are studying come alive in front of you. It was the same when I saw the Osaka Castle after reading a history class on Asian Art, it was also the same last night at Stelarc’s public lecture.

On the way to Stelarc's talk(quick picture while walking to LaSalle from Little India MRT)

During the 2 hour talk, I think Stelarc put forth several interesting ideas about art, technology and his work – all the while speaking in a distant, objective and analytical manner.

This came as a surprise for me. Many artists (regardless of their fields and discipline) count intuition, sensitivity and emotions an important aspect of their practice and their craft. For Stelarc to speak in such a removed manner was intriguing.

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(before the start of Stelarc’s lecture)

That said, Stelarc is no less a devoted artist than his contemporaries. His willingness to test his limits (e.g. suspending himself on hooks), to research and learn (i.e. keeping up with all the cutting edge technologies he incorporates into his work), his ability to reflect upon critically his body of work are but just some of the qualities that I find inspiring as an aspiring artist/creative.

At reception after the event, the group of us had a chance to snap a quick photo with Stelarc himself. After the photo-op, I took the chance to ask him in personal if he was afraid of anything. I was interested to see who the real Stelarc was away from the one we all see and read about.

Group Photo with Stelarc
(a quick photo op with Stelarc!)

He shared that one of his concerns is when things go awry during his performances. He mentioned that he almost lost his arm to a serious infection whilst trying to insert the ear implant. In his words, he almost “traded an arm for an ear”. He also shared with me the importance of taking action at some point, paraphrasing the adage that at some point the talking has to stop, and taking action has to start.

All in all, it was a talk that I really enjoyed. While it was interesting to understand more about the concepts, theories and themes that Stelarc deals with in his work, it was his work ethic, eloquence and tenacity as an artist that created the biggest impression.