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The Third Hand

Stelarc describes his Third Hand project (1979—1998) as an appearance, in which a mechanical human—like hand is attached to the artist`s right arm as an additional hand.

The movements of the hand are controlled by the electrical signals of the muscles contractions that are picked up, pre—amplified, rectified, and sent to the switching system. The hand, made from aluminium, stainless steel, acrylic and latex has ability to pinch, grasp and rotate in wrist, as well as is provided with a tactile feedback system for a sense of touch.  More  


The hand was completed in 1980 in Yokohama. It was based on a prototype developed at Waseda University. It was constructed with the assistance of Imasen in Nagoya. It has been used in performances by the artist between 1980—1998 in Japan, the USA, Europe and Australia. It has become the best—known and longest—used performance object for the artist. Originally, it was designed as a semi—permanent attachment to the body, but because of skin irritation from electrode gel and the weight of the hand, support structure and the battery pack (approx. 2 kg), it could not be worn continuously and, thus, it became a special performance device. The Third Hand has come to stand for a body of work that explored intimate interface of technology and prosthetic augmentation — not as a replacement, but rather as an addition to the body. A prosthesis not as a symptom of excess rather than sign of lack. The Third Hand performances with amplified body signals and sounds have contributed to cyborg discourses on the body included in more recent performances, such as: FRACTAL FLESH, PING BODY and PARASITE. [source: adres strony artysty]

The artitst`s first and only appearance with The Third Hand in Poland was the Split Body: Voltage—in / Voltage—out performance presented 1997 in Wrocław during the 5th Sound Basis Visual Art Festival WRO 97. Stelarc performed in the historical spaces of the former Jerzy Grotowski`s Laboratorium Theatre, letting the audience to influence and manipulate his body with the attached Third Hand. The abilities of his naked body plugged into cyber—mechanical machine were extended and controlled at the same time. Electrical impulses generated and applied by the audience via electrodes attached to artist`s body resulted in muscles actions and contractions that were translated into movements of his robotic third hand. Such system, activated by people in the physical location using computer mouse, could be described as a new bodily presence, cyber—human performative appearance, in which the body becomes the object for physical and technical experiments in order to discover its limitations and the modes of its future existence.

Place and date of recording: 5th Sound Basis Visual Art Festival WRO 97, Apocalypse Hall, Grotowski Institute, Wrocław, May 4th, 1997


artist's bio
Stelarc (AU), b. 1946 as Stelios Arcadiou in Cyprus, is a radical performance artist who examines the potential of technology—based extention and evolution of the human body. He has made films of inside of his body, has performed with a Stomach Scuplture, Third Hand and Exoskeleton and completed 27 body suspension performances. His human—machine interfaces employ medical instruments, surgery, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet, bio— and nano technology.
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