Here are excerpts of an interview I did with Stelarc a few weeks ago,
maybe it answers some of the questions Mark Tribe posed in his email on
"<a href='/object.rhiz?212'>Cyborg Bodies</a>." The full version is forthcoming on Zer0News
[On the body and digital networks]
Stelarc: I think it's about seeing the body in a different way, instead
of the body being a biological entity, operating in this local space in
proximity to someone else, in fact the body becomes a body connected
with other bodies in other places in a multiplicity of ways, a whole
range of sensory antennae that the technology provides. In a sense the
body becomes part of this greater operational structure, where
intelligence is distributed remotely and spatially over the Internet. A
body is not just this entity, but this entity connected to another body,
where awareness is sliding and shifting, coagulating, ebbing and
flowing, intensifying and dimming, depending on the connectivity of the
Marie Ringler: So it is "the body as machine"?
S: It depends what you mean by machine. In this muscle stimulation
system we can physically link up over this electronic space. Now,
whether you want to call that a machinic operation or whether you want
to call that a new physical coupling, an interactivity between
biological bodies, the system that heightens and amplifies and projects
human presence simultaneously in different places, well that's really up
to a definition of what a mechanism or a machine is.
Certainly the emphasis has shifted from seeing the body as a site for
the psyche and as a site for social inscription to now seeing the body
in a more structural way. As a body connected to other bodies, as a body
embedded and interactive with other technologies and the Internet in
MR: Do you still feel human?
S: I don't want to get off to this Sci-Fi fantasy world of the
post-human, but of course one can well argue that images and body
transformation have already occurred with medical experimentation and
surgical operations and the notion of a cyborg is already
physiologically coming into being.
Another relation of the body to it's machines has been the generating of
images. Up until now images have been benign, they could be transmitted,
but now with the possibility of imbuing images with artificial
intelligence and artificial life, then you have a situation where
intelligent autonomous images can become operational agents for the
body. Or put into another way, that these intelligent autonomous and
operational images in themselves become a kind of alternate lifeform, or
artificial lifeform. A lifeform that goes beyond the post-human notion
of the cyborg. So the realm of the post-human may no longer reside in
Donna Haraway's notion of the cyborg. The realm of post-human may well
reside in intelligent autonomous and operational images.
[On the Internet as a dis-embodied zone]
S: This idea that the Internet is a space of dis-embodiment I think is a
rather fallacious leap of the imagination. For a start the Internet is
grounded in an immense physicality of computer systems, of satellites,
of other bodies in other places.
I think that the fact that the body seems to be absent on the Net, this
absence is of inadequacy not of any substantiality. But as we develop
more complex force-feedback, tactile feedback loops of connectivity,
then we might be in a position where we can generate experiences of
phantom bodies on the Internet, but phantom not as in phantasmagorical,
but as in phantom limb sensation. It's not there, but you can feel it.
At the moment this is not the case, but to extol this absence of
physicality as the Internet of a realm of dis-embodiment is totally
reductive and impoverished.