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.
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.
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.
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.