Monday, August 17, 2015

Stelarc, Stelarc, lend me your ear

As I’ve said before, I like performance, and I like art, but I’m no fan of performance art. (Here’s my rant from a few years back. The opinion has certainly stood the test of time. The only change I would make is switching out Rockefeller Center for Radio City Music Hall, to be more specific about where the Rockettes perform. I suppose I could amend the reference to Karen Finley to say yam rather than cucumber, but reader KatRog took care of that in her comment.)

No, I find most performance art to be lame, weird, off putting and narcissistic. I also don’t like the fact that it’s ephemeral, as well. Don’t know why this bothers me. Given my view of performance art, you’d think I’d be happy that it doesn’t last.

Anyway, whether it lasts or not is not the argument when it comes to Australian performance artist Stelarc.

It may not last through the ages. Three hundred years from now, I doubt that anyone will stand before it in a museum ooh-ing and aah-ing. But, unless he has it surgically removed, Stelarc’s art work will be with us. Or, at any rate, with him.

For the last nine years, the artist known only as Stelarc has been growing a third ear on his left arm, all in the name of art. (Source: Huffington Post)

Here’s the man himself, out VanGogh-ing VanGogh. And is it me, or does he kind of resemble James Taylor? Rockabye Sweet Baby James…

StelarcStelarc may look like James Taylor, but he’s obviously channeling his inner George Bernard Shaw. As in “some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”

And, that, I guess brings me full circle back to Part A, with me looking at things that are and asking why. Or, more accurately, WTF.

"As a performance artist I am particularly interested in that idea of the post-human, that idea of the cyborg," he said, according to CNN. "What it means to be human will not be determined any longer merely by your biological structure but perhaps also determined largely by all of the technology that's plugged or inserted into you."

Oh. Post-human. Now I get it.

Stelarc originally dreamed of this particular thing that never was nearly 20 years back, but it was only in 2006 that he was able to convince a surgeon to give him another cheerful earful. Dr. Frankenstein, I presume.

Now that the ear’s up and running, Stelarc plans to Internet enable it.

"This ear is not for me, I've got two good ears to hear with. This ear is a remote listening device for people in other places," he told the network. "They'll be able to follow a conversation or hear the sounds of a concert, wherever I am, wherever you are. People will be able to track, through a GPS as well, where the ear is."

Can’t wait to be able to listen in on Stelcarc’s conversations, not to mention his snoring, belching and toilet flushing.

Back in the days of b&w TV, there was a show called the Naked City, a police drama set in New York City. If famously ended each episode with the narrator intoning, “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

I’ve seen estimates that, this year, there will be 50 billion objects connected to the Internet – all those Fitbits, all those Nest thermostats. All kinds of stuff we really don’t need, most of which I suspect will provide of marginal utility. Not that everything has to have utility. I’m not that much of a philistine. (I like performance. I like art.) And yet, even by performance art standards, Stelarc’s earpiece is really out there.

50 billion objects in the Internet of Things. This has been one of them. 50 billion is an awful lot of things, but I’m guessing Stelarc’s ear makes the top five in terms of weirdness. (Name another.)

I said earlier that we won’t be looking at any performance art in museums 300 years out. But if Stelarc goes fully cyborg, who knows? Maybe he gets to live forever. If that ear had two-way communication, I’d ask him if that’s the plan.

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