Tag Archives: Stelarc

Hanging around Stelarc

Stelarc did a live performance on Saturday, 26 February, of his StickMan / miniStickMan. It was part of the “Future U” exhibition at RMIT Gallery that included Stelarc, Patricia Piccinini and other artists.

StickMan consists of an aluminium spine and limbs, powered by pneumatics electronics, the armature is suspended from the ceiling. Wires, cables and a coiled pneumatic hose are connected to it. Stelarc is strapped into the metal armature, pneumatic pistons pumping the limbs. He holds onto the handles of his StickMan, not to control it, but to hang on. Exploring the possibilities of this interaction with the machine and public, Stelarc pivoted on one leg, trying to remain relaxed while being controlled by the machine and the public.

Given the limited options of miniStickMan is somewhat repetitive except for the human element. The shadows of the man and machine are projected on one wall, a larger than life video of the live event the other. There is an industrial soundscape generated by sensors on the spine of the exoskeleton. It is animated by a background algorithm determined by the three of the limbs of miniStickMan. The public can change the position of miniStickMan.

This is not a dance or a performance with a beginning, middle and end. It is not about personal expression, beauty or taste, aesthetic choices or identity. It is a five-hour-long durational performance art piece about physical endurance and tolerance of the restrictions. I wonder if I should be sketching Stelarc, like a life model as he poses.

Stelarc, along with Chris Burden, was part of the masochistic body art/performance art of the 1970s, where the artist’s body is the medium for art. Stelarc would suspend himself with hooks through his skin. In the 1990s, he started integrating robotics with his body. He is one of the few artists to have his work reviewed by the BMJ (aka British Medical Journal). An earlier project, Stelarc’s Extended Arm 2000, a robot arm is on display in the corridor in a vitrine.

Stelarc is a performance art star of Australian contemporary art; he is like a septuagenarian rock star with a single name. When I ran into a friend and said that I’d just been to see Stelarc’s StickMan, he replied that he preferred Stelarc’s earlier work. Is he expecting a Stelarc’s greatest hits retrospective?


Progress on Man Lifting Cow

At Fundêre Foundry in Sunshine John Kelly, the artist famous for his Cow Up a Tree sculpture, is making the third sculpture in his cow series. This one will be a 5.5 metre bronze, Man lifting cow, but at the moment it is mostly clay.

John Kelly at work

Now that I am the author of Sculptures of Melbourne, a history of Melbourne’s public sculpture I get invited to foundries to meet artists. I should really check exactly what I have written about them in the book and on my blog before meeting them, so that I can be prepared. The first thing that John Kelly wanted to talk about was site specific sculptures as I had described his Cow Up a Tree sculpture as “completely non-site specific”.

I doubt that I will say anything like that for his next sculpture as there is a big hook for that story: local boy makes a sculpture for his local suburb in a local foundry. John Kelly is not the only contemporary artist who grew up in Sunshine, but sculptures by Leigh Bowery or Stelarc might be too extreme and confronting for general public.

The local Brimbank City Council is making the most of the sculpture’s local manufacture, holding a “commissioning launch” at the foundry for the sculpture in a few weeks time. Something to do before the model becomes unrecognisable in plaster moulds. For several reasons the model for fake camouflage cow will be made of fibreglass, chiefly as it would weigh several tons if made of solid clay like the figure of man.

John Kelly and the marquette

John takes a break from pushing clay around on the sculpture and shows me the marquettes as Cameron McIndoe of Fundêre Foundry welds the armature of the hand. The problem of fitting the hand to the cow’s leg is going to take some time.

John Kelly and Cameron McIndoe

In the corner of Fundêre Foundry there is the larger than life size equestrian sculpture of a Australian horseman from the Boer War by Louis Laumen. There are plans for three more.

Louis Laumen Boer War equestrian at Fundêre Foundry


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