Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Reading Response: Electric Body Manipulation as Performance Art: A Historical Perspective

Crystal Ryan
Professor Thomas Asmuth
September 4, 2018

Electric Performance Art
                The normal human being thinks of electricity as a simple, modern convenience with not much usage other than power.  But the truth of the matter is, electricity is so much more than that.  Electricity is not just in the wires of a building that power our lights; us, as humans, are also electric.  Artists reach past the norm and explore the possibilities of connecting electricity and the human body.  Testing the durability of flesh versus electrical charge is science; science is also art.  Stimulating the human nervous system causing involuntary reaction per electricity forces the subject into a reflexive performance.
Electrical performances can contain more than one individual completing a circuit.  Considering that the human body is conductive, a connection of human beings could continue if there was enough power to surge through the subjects.  One is left to wonder how much electricity a body can handle before it is fried like that of an electric chair; in this case, size does matter.  Experiments were done on various sizes of animals to test how close to death they could get.  The data received from the experiments would prove vital in seeing how powerful electricity really is.  A fight for using electricity as an instrument of executioner death began. 
From all the experiments with AC DC currents and Leyden Jars, electronic art evolved further.  Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation was one of these evolutions into the context of electric performance art.  Facial muscles are involuntarily stimulated by that of electricity displaying a show for viewers to marvel at.  Once again, science and art connected after this marvel was experienced.  Advancements in medical science with electric currents and paralyzed limbs were made possible because of electric performance art.  From visual art to the theater, and now to the internet, electricity, has amplified the body performing science for the thirsty viewer.

Electric Body Manipulation as Performance Art

Lecture in class on 17Sep18

  • The body is matter and also an interface of information
  • Stephen Gray, glass rod rubbed on child: conducts electricity
  • 1729 represents a period of time, the enlightenment: growth and technology, scientific method
  • Scientific perspective drove a lot of this
  •  Why on stage?  Communication, pass on information
  • Thomas Eakins paintings
  • Theatrical presentations, key to passing on information
  • Phantasmagoria: optical entertainment
  • Performances turn the body into a prop
  • Reflect upon values vs optical entertainment by use of the human body
  • Creates an objectification of the body
  • Matthias Bose- Venus Electrocotta - electric kiss
  • The Leyden Jar: early form of capacitor, 1745.
  • What are the limits of the body?  Experiments with electrical objects experimenting on the human body.
  • Frogs used for experimentation, electric charges used to trigger reflexes 
  • Debate on alternating current. The Electrocution of Topsy to debate that direct current is unsafe compared to alternating current.
  • Thomas doing Zumba alternating current 
  • Direct current, no safer.  Will still burn you
  • AC is cheaper to transmit DC, all has to do with economy
  • Immediate extinguishment of life, the electric chair, to provide a human methodology of exercising capital punishment.  Thought to be extremely affective in humanly ending human life compared to public hangings.
  • AED
  • Our bodies use electriciy
  • Contemporary art: performance art using their bodies
  • E Stem, CVS- twitching muscle massage through electrical impulse
  • Put bodies through a test to discover enlightenment, hooks in body
  • Odin Hanging on Yggdrasil 

  • Science, art, religion tied into this
  • Chris Burden 
  • Programmable possibilities of the human body

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