05 March 2008

Body | Artist | Surgeon

While I cannot agree with New Media artist Stelarc's premise that 'the body is obsolete' - yet - who can argue with his pre-millennial statement:
The body is neither a very efficient nor very durable structure. It malfunctions often and fatigues quickly; its performance is determined by its age. It is susceptible to disease and is doomed to a certain and early death. Its survival parameters are very slim - it can survive only weeks without food, days without water and minutes without oxygen (1998)
This is the first in a series of posts exploring intersections of art & surgery. Blame Carnal Artist Marie Orlan, whose work I was first exposed to as a HAMS student @ UCL.

The hybridization and augmentation of the human form motivated by reasons other than reparation & disease are contemporary realities. Plastic surgery and prosthetics have evolved from servicing compensation and lack (mastectomy, amputation) to re-forming the body to aesthetic or idealized visions, enhancing sensory capabilities and eventually to serve a Transhumanist agenda.

Nevertheless, the traditional definitions of surgery -- along the lines of 'a medical procedure involving an incision with instruments' -- are consistently appended with references to purpose of 'removing diseased tissue', 'to repair damage' and 'work of treating diseases, injuries, or deformities'.

Collaborations between surgeons and groundbreaking artists necessitate that traditional definitions be updated. To quote Stelarc once more,
'Altering the architecture of the body results in adjusting and extending its awareness of the world.'
Surgeons are moving beyond those roles prescribed by drug companies & HMOs, and are becoming complicit in the redefinition of the human form, and eventually what it is to be human.

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