A Body of Work

Ahead of the 2020 Adelaide Biennial, VAULT spoke to one of Australia’s most revered and celebrated artists, Stelarc, whose practice continues to push the limits.

FEATURE by Steve Dow FEBRUARY 2020

At 73, Cyprus-born, Melbourne-raised Stelarc is still putting his body through rigorous ordeals. Between 1976 and 1988 he performed more than two dozen flesh-hook suspensions, constantly piercing his skin as his body was hung with hooks supported by wire cables at different angles: upside down; slanting; upright.

There were various locations: on an outcrop of rocks by the sea; hanging from a tree; dangling from a large crane 60 metres above Copenhagen. “Yes, I am scared of heights,” he admits. “Closing my eyes helps.”

Stelarc’s art has evolved into performing with prosthetic, transformative sidekicks such as a third hand and an extended arm. He even retains to this day a third ear integrated with his body – a part cell-cultivated, part-constructed ear surgically attached to his left arm. “Why have only two ears on the side of your head?” he tells VAULT. “If you had an ear on your arm, you could whisper into one of your ears. Your ear could be a transmitter of sounds that people could listen in to.”

This art-world news event of gaining an additional ear inspired Stelarc’s return to flesh hooks a quarter century after the last effort. In 2014 at Scott Livesey Galleries in Melbourne, his nude body was hung with hooks perforating his back, elbows and legs above a fabricated four-metre white sculpture of his famous arm and its ear.

His earlier public suspensions also included a performance four storeys above East 11th Street in New York’s East Village. Talking about his career and life now, Stelarc will regularly break into a hearty, deep, long ma-ha-ha-ha chuckle. How does he move through pain? “With great difficulty,” he . .. Subscribe to read this article in full


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