Stelarc's Stretched Skin
This past week, Pain Solution Media launched a fundraising campaign for the publication of a new book from suspension pioneer and performance artist Stelarc, titled Stretched Skin: Obsolete, Uncertain and Indifferent Body. Stelarc’s Stretched Skin is to focus on his suspension performances, from the very first in 1976 to the most recent in in 2012, including the collaborations with Håvve Fjell and Wings of Desire in 2012 and 2013.
Here at the Infinite Body Piercing blog we’ve profiled several noteworthy and worthwhile fundraisers over the last several years. Many of these were started by people in our community who are working to document and/or preserve the legacy of our industry, and we’ve encouraged our readers to join us in contributing to these projects. PS Media’s first three books were gorgeous publications for anyone interested in sideshow performance (and suspension) as an offshoot of body modification, and this one promises to be another amazing addition to any body modification enthusiast’s library—and is absolutely worth supporting.
Stelarc was born Stelios Arcadiou in Limassol, Cyprus in 1946 and raised in Australia. Since the 1970s, he has tirelessly explored the relationship between the body and the machine. His performances are built on ideas related to transhumanism and the obsolescence of the human body. He has worked extensively with the interfaces between the body and robotics, stating that, "Technology is what defines the meaning of being human, it's part of being human." His past projects have included Third Hand (A mechanical human-like hand that is attached to his arm as an additional appendage), Stomach Sculpture (a small robotic capsule that was inserted into his stomach and filmed with an endoscope), and various full-body robotics projects, including Exoskeleton and Muscle Machine. One of his more memorable long-term works is the Extra Ear Project, which he explained in an interview in the now-defunct Bizarre Magazine (page archive):
The Extra Ear project has taken the longest to realize. I first had the idea in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2006 that I had the first surgical procedures to construct the ear on my arm.
How does one grow an extra ear?
A skin expander was implanted in my forearm. By injecting saline solution, the silicone implant stretched the skin, forming excess skin that was then used to construct the ear. I then had a second surgery to insert a tissue-reconstruction scaffold and the skin was suctioned over it. Over six months, cell growth occurs in the porous scaffold, fixing it in place. The third surgical procedure will lift the helix of the ear, construct a soft earlobe and inject stem cells for better definition. The final procedure will implant a miniature microphone that, with a Bluetooth transmitter, allows a wireless connection to the Internet, making the ear a remote listening device.
While all of his projects are fascinating—often seeming to walk the line between prophetic and obsessive—it’s Stelarc’s work with suspension that has endeared him to body-modification enthusiasts. Stelarc’s 1984 book Obsolete Body: Suspensions documented his suspensions of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. While long out of print, this book has had a lasting influence on a generation of suspension artists and performers. (Interestingly, Stelarc was apparently unaware of his impact on the body modification community for many years.) The book extensively chronicles Stelarc’s suspension performances through Japan and Australia, and is full of dramatic black-and-white photos that still inspire modern suspension practitioners.
Although Stelarc has ceased suspending himself, he recently collaborated on two suspension projects with Norway’s suspension troupe Wings of Desire: Spinning/Breathing at the Oslo Suspension Symposium in 2012 and Shadow Suspension during the 2013 Dallas SusCon. It was Stelarc’s relationship with Håvve Fjell (and his groups Pain Solution and Wings of Desire) that led to the idea for this book. From the IndieGoGo page:
When PS Media approached Stelarc to suggest that we could run a new edition of Obsolete Body, his immediate response was that it would be more interesting to publish a new book that contains a complete presentation of his suspension performances, as well as new articles and a different selection of images. We agreed immediately! It is with great pride and joy that we can now announce that PS Media will publish Stelarc's new book: Stretched Skin—Obsolete, Uncertain and Indifferent Body.
Pain Solution is a performance group from Oslo, Norway centered on performer Håvve Fjell. Håvve formed Pain Solution in 1993, describing it as a “power packed rollercoaster of breathtaking entertainment, taking the audience on a theatrical ride through beautiful and bizarre sideshow acts.” Håvve has said Pain Solution grew from his experiences growing up, when he began “experimenting with his pain tolerance by cutting and burning himself as a teenager, but it wasn't until he read Modern Primitives that he realized he was not alone and could finally be proud of his urges.” Pain Solution has traditionally revolved around Håvve Fjell—with the recent addition of two protégés. And while not a de facto member of Pain Solution, Håvve’s sister Helene has been photographing and documenting Håvve’s work in Pain Solution and Wings of Desire from the very beginning.
PS Media says of its publications: “Our ambitions are high, and our niche is narrow. We target our community first and foremost and from there we let our reach spread like rings in water.” From their Facebook page:
PS Media was established to publish documentation on the work of Pain Solution and Wings of Desire in high-quality formats. As it has become an established part of the Pain Solution enterprise, ambitions have grown and we are broadening our scope to include future publications within the realm of Body Modification, Body Art, Sideshow, and Body Suspension.
This is the third book by the brother and sister team of Håvve and Helene Fjell. Their first book, Ten Years of Pain (2003), was a memoir of sorts of Håvve and the formation of Pain Solution. The second book, Wings of Desire: Learning to Fly (2012), was an award-winning look at the suspension group Håvve founded in 2002. The third, To Bleed or Not to Bleed (2015), covers Pain solution in its second decade, from 2003 to 2015, picking up where the first book left off. Not only are these books of interest to anyone in our industry, they’re also beautifully laid out and printed. I had the opportunity to correspond with Helene Fjell in 2012 while working on issue #57 of The Point: The Journal of the Association of Professional Piercers, where I was able to include a few of her stunning suspension images, several of which were included in Learning to Fly. Stretched Skin is being laid out by Trine + Kim Design Studio, who has been working with Pain Solution since 2007—so this new book promises to be just as smartly designed.
Stretched Skin at Infinite Body Piercing
Infinite Body Piercing is contributing toward the publication of Stretched Skin in the “distributor” category, so next year, we will have ten signed copies of the book for sale at the studio and through our online store. We’re encouraging anyone with an interest in sideshow performance, suspension, and body modification to join us in contributing toward this project, but if you’re not able to pre-order the book through this campaign, we will have copies for sale at the studio and online. But be aware: this is a limited run—so once they’re gone, they’re gone!