One of the topics that comes up in understanding media arts is Bio Art. It is interesting to examine its concerns with the post-human. Bio Art is entailing the practice of artists using bacteria, living organisms, life processes, and live tissues as their mediums. The creation process includes scientific methods such as biotechnology. The works tend to be presented in galleries, studios, and even labs. A lot of Bio Art projects speculate the future of the human body and technological body distortion.
An artist that follows this theme of body distortion is Sanghyun Lee, and his works Love or My Father? and Lady Gaga’s Taedong River. The medium he employs is digital C prints that are pictured on famous Korean landscape paintings. He creates cut-out figures with barbie-like or anime to respond to Korea’s incredibly high plastic surgery statistics. Korean women get surgeries to look more westernized, or like anime characters. It is not Bio Art, and does not physically distort bodies, but it does digitally distort bodies. This is represented through the act of cutting and pasting to create the figures.
Many bioartists tend to turn their bodies into art. One of these is Orlan, who repeatedly got plastic surgery to alter her face and body for her pieces. One of these is entitled
The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan, which includes a filmed performance surgery in which she receives facial features of women in famous paintings and sculptures, such as Botticelli’s Venus and Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” With this she comments on ideals of classical western beauty. This also exhibits technology’s growing power to change appearance. This was considered very controversial, and is definitely an example of artists using media to extremes. Orlan suggests it is an art by filming the process and associating herself with infamous art pieces, but I struggle to consider this piece pushing any boundaries or providing any new insights.
The next is Stelarc, who is very famous for body distortion. For his work entitled, Ear On Arm, he had a prosthetic ear surgically placed in his left arm that can hear and transmit. He examines whether surgery to the body can change a person’s perspective. He employs telematics to engineer what he refers to as alternate anatomical architecture, explaining that as technology progresses, it becomes more biocompatible (Stelarc, 2016). This means that it is becoming more able to work with the human body. Unlike the other artists’ works, they’re not aesthetic replacements, they’re augmenting the human body, allowing for humans to be electronically ‘connected.’ In this way he regards the post-human relationship with technology through a positive perspective, rather than critical. The surgeries are not for cosmetic, aesthetic enhancement, rather it is about accepting the potential of technology to augment the body. It is interesting because from a perspective of many, Stelarc’s work is considered more provocative than Orlan’s. One could assume it is because the public finds it easier to regard his works as bodily mutilation rather than augmentation. It is less familiar, and in this way provides far more than just social commentary.
Lee, S. (2011). Lady Gaga’s Taedong River North Korea–US Friendship Concert. [Digital C Prints] Sydney: Museum of Contemporary Arts Australia.
Lee, S. (2011). Love Or My Father? [Digital C Prints] Sydney: Museum of Contemporary Arts Australia.
Orlan. (1990). The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan. [Video, Bio Art] Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou.
Orlan – Artist. Retrieved October 24, 2016, from http://www.creative-mapping.com/controversial-french-artist-orlan-is-perhaps-most-infamous-for-using-her-own-body-as-a-tool-for-a-series-of-performance-surgeries-known-as-the-reincarnation-of-saint-orlan/
Stelarc, & Sellars, N. (2006). Oblique: Images from Stelarc’s Extra Ear Surgery. [Photography, Bio Art] Melbourne: Guildford Lane Gallery.
Stelarc. Stelarc // Ear on Arm. Retrieved October 24, 2016, from http://stelarc.org/?catid=20242