Jasmina Tešanović: Stelarc in Ritopek

Jasmina Tešanović:

Stelarc in Ritopek

photo by Bruce Sterling

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Most people in Belgrade have never heard of Stelarc
just vaguely know of Ritopek.

I met Stelarc last week in Athens, where I listened to
his literally heartbreaking presentation on the
obsolete human
condition and the body's failure to follow the
arc of his cyber-desires.

He spoke of breaking the
between death and life by preserving bodies in
plastic, by
repairing bodies with 3D fabricated artificial organs,
unborn future people grown in vitro outside the wombs

The linear analog counting of our lifespans
will cease;
we will not longer tread a natural path from life to
We must find a different, truer way of talking and

Humans have always feared themselves and their
capacities, in past, in present, and in future: man
is an obsolete body in the space of The Other.

Very postmodern: very posthuman.

We reach the outskirts of Belgrade, climbing hills
above the Danube, heading through narrow roads with
stones, turning into trails over an abyss. We meet
hippies and geeks doing the same thing on foot.

I see a huge tower and an empty white house in glass,
a huge deep square hole dug before it.

That's "Z-1," the new project gallery of new trends
and performances, the effort of Serbian-New York
artist Dragan Ilic.

Yes, that is where we will find Stelarc. Will Stelarc
(as is his wont) hanging from the tower nude,
suspended from steel hooks through his own skin?
Serbs have seen and done some remarkable things in the
Balkans, even Superman's Kryptonite was found recently
here, but Stelarc has never come to Belgrade to
push the borders of pain, art and fantasy.

A very big turnout for the Cypriot-Australian
artist: and they're very nice people from different
backgrounds, of different ages, sitting around a big
fire, watching the red polluted sun sink into the
black shiny Danube. The full moon casts its
spell of insomnia twice this month.

During Stelarc's gory, projected presentation, my
pianist friend
faints: from the commotion, she claims. She could only
herself playing John Cage piano pieces with three
hands —
for Stelarc has three hands, a left a right and an
robot hand, and he has been known to write
with all three of them.

He is The Devil, she claims with a sweet little smile.
She gets close to him, to touch his altered body.
Stelarc has a deaf Van Gogh ear implanted in his
left forearm. My friend whispers a couple
of wishes into the artificial grafted ear of Stelarc:
mute and still without its planned microphones,
the incipient third ear does not register her voice.
Nor does her voice burst audibly from Stelarc's
own mouth, as someday telephonic voices will do.

As we head downhill towards our homes, in a city
with buildings, rats flats and humans, we speak of
life, death and futurity. We remember our long
friends and family, thinking: what if Stelarc were
right? Who on earth would be able to live in a
crowd of deathless posthumans on our planet Earth
so rapidly succumbing to ecological destruction?

But then, a new planet, much like earth they say,
was discovered this very month. So maybe our handy
getaway from the limits of being is right over there:
twenty light-years beyond the moon.

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Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

Sarajevo Mon Amour

Killing Journalists

Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide

Carnival of Ruritania
"Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
Faking Bombings
Dispatch from Amsterdam
Where are your Americans now?

Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
Slaughter in the Monastery

Mermaid's Trail

A Burial in Srebenica
Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
To Hague, to Hague

Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties

Floods and Bombs

Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women 
– Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral