The line that separates us from the machines we create has become blurred. Our self-proclaiming notions of intelligence, awareness, identity, agency, and embodiment are no longer attributed solely to the human body. And instead of identity, we possess characteristics of connectivity that are most notably manifested through Embodied Conversational Agents.
Stelarc’s most recent project, Prosthetic Head, is a computer-generated head that has real-time lip-synching, speech synthesis and facial expressions. Through a vision or sensor system, the Prosthetic Head can acknowledge the presence and position of any physical body that approaches it and speak to the person who interrogates it.
If thinking is about effective processing and appropriate verbal and behavioural response, then the Prosthetic Head can be said to think. By expanding its database through its conversations, the Prosthetic Head becomes more informed and gains autonomy. By separating himself from his head, the artist will no longer be able to take full responsibility for what it says. Though Stelarc has created many pieces that robotically augment and enhance the body, with Prosthetic Head he eliminates the physical to highlight problems of agency and awareness.
Stelarc is an Australian artist who has performed extensively in Japan, Europe and the US using prosthetics, robotics, virtual reality systems, and the Internet to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body. Stelarc is a Prinicipal Research Fellow in the Performance Arts Digital Research Unit at the Nottingham Trent University. He is Honourary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. His artwork is represented by the Sherman Galleries in Sydney. At present he is Artist-in-Residence at Ohio State University in Columbus.
The project was realized with the assistance of Karen Marcelo (programming and customizing ALICE and coordinating the team), Sam Trychin (text-to-speech and animation software) and Barrett Fox (3D head construction). The project would not have been possible without the advice of Richard Wallace and the assistance of Eyematic in San Francisco. The sensor system was developed by the ekran collective of Toronto using the AID system. Presented in collaboration with Trinity Square Video.