Author

Cara Hunt

Class Year

2015

Access Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Science, Technology, and Society Program

First Advisor

Janet Gray

Second Advisor

Ken Livingston

Abstract

In this paper I argue that artistic representation has historically been and continues to be a valuable medium for envisioning new bodily forms and for raising important questions regarding changes in what it means to be human in an era of rapid technological advancement. I make this claim using Stelarc, an eccentric Australian performance artist, as a case study. Stelarc’s artistic exploration of the modern-day cyborg enacts and represents philosophical and ontological concepts such as identity, hybridity, and embodiment that are subject to change in the digital age. In order to arrive at this claim, Chapter 1 will trace the cyborg back to its use in 20th century Dada art. I do this to demonstrate how artists have historically depicted shifts in human subjectivities along with their changing technological landscapes. In Chapter 2, I define more precisely what the “cyborg” means for the 21st century and outline a selection of cyborg narratives pertaining to futurist lines of thought. Here I introduce Donna Haraway’s conception of the cyborg but return to it more extensively in Chapter 3. Chapter 3 examines the scientific and philosophical context of Stelarc, beginning with a discussion of the Extended Mind Hypothesis as a neurological background or frame of reference for his art. It continues with a close look at Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto as a philosophical foundation that Stelarc engages with in his performance pieces. Chapter 4 gives a thorough background on Stelarc and the central themes he explores throughout his work. Chapter 5 closely analyzes two of his pieces, Prosthetic Head and Ear on Arm, in order to explore how his art both enacts and moves beyond Haraway’s cyborg as he questions and blurs notions of embodiment, awareness, prosthesis, and ‘natural.’ Chapter 6 summarizes my argument and concludes with remarks about the importance of Stelarc, our relationship to technology, and the new technological implications of what it means to be human.

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