The human condition, the novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet once wrote, is to 'be there'. Thinking in particular of the isolated characters of Samuel Beckett’s plays, the notion of presence on the stage exceeded the fictional drama of play, of acting. Like Shakespeare’s 'bare forked animal', the human body is vulnerable, alone, subject to a relentless flow of time and entropy beyond its control. Imagine, then, being hoisted four stories above a New York street, the body’s physical mobility compromised by an unforgiving system of hooks, wires and pulleys. Naked and silent, it too is there, 'anaesthetised and pacified', words carefully chosen by the artist to suggest suspension as an alternative state of being and of becoming. There in the 1985 Copenhagen City Suspension was sixty metres above the ground. Stelarc remembers how frightening the experience was, but at the same time the sensation of the body vibrating, simply occupying space. On the eve of a 2012 Suspension Performance by the indefatigable performance artist Stelarc, 21.C re-ponders the obsolescence of the body.
This essay was originally published in the exhibition catalogue for 'Stelarc: SUSPENSIONS', Scott Livesey Gallery, Armadale, Victoria, Australia, 07-31 March 2012. For more information, see: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/214553