Everyday Cyborgs

This week we looked at cyborgs, post-human and prosthesis in ways and ideas of extending the body and we explored rehabilitation of the body to normative functions.

we have an apparent desire to go beyond our capabilities, to push beyond on our limits. We study to increase knowledge, making machines to produce more than what we can with our own hands. Create devices to go faster, see further, speak louder and when our bodies refuse to do what we think they should, we find ways to supplement them and exceed our corporal boundaries. Technology is everywhere and we swim through most our current lives in a tangible digital dream.

We looked at Chris Burden, which on the 70s looked at the physical capabilities of the human body, in which he was crucified to a Volkswagen and on another instance shot on the arm. So why would anyone go through this? He used the body because it was democratic and valueless as in a means it couldn’t be sold, and its used as an anticapitalism material, anti-art market. Not only could he be the artist, but we also could become the work itself, so in another way he is the subject and the object of the work.

We looked at other artists which explored the body and its physical limitations:

Tehching Hsieh

Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012)

Dennis Oppenheim

Rebecca Horn

Such horrifically maimed and disfigured men were far from uncommon in Germany after World War I, when 80,000 amputees returned home from the front. Reliant on prosthetics, canes, and crutches, these veterans have become as mechanized as the war that claimed their flesh.

War Cripples, Otto Dix, 1920


This attention to the prosthetic figure has ricocheted through 20th-century art, with artists expanding the body beyond its limits. Extensions celebrate possibilities while revealing the constraints we have engineered for ourselves. Working directly after the First World War, Oskar Schlemmer’s body supplements amplified the frailties of both the natural and enhanced body. He had experienced a short period of military service and, while in hospital recovering from injury, saw many men with lost limbs. The sculptural costumes of his Triadic Ballet, first performed in 1922, forced performers to submit to the weight and geometric form of their attire while Slat Dance 1 from 1927 used equipment designed for physical education to lengthen the dancer’s limbs. Just as 18th and 19th-century ‘progress’ compelled people to conform movements to the rhythm of the factory, Schlemmer’s constricting additions forced their wearers to empathise with their own mechanics.



The body and language are the two things that we surely know best: whether linguistic or physical, prostheses are both material and metaphorical; they are markers of a technologized body, and far more than mere supplement. As Aimee Mullins, athlete, activist, and protagonist in Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle 1994–2002, has eloquently explained: if a person needs false legs, why should they look like human ones? A prosthetic has the potential to extend the body far beyond the limits we are born into – a prospect that is equally terrifying and exciting.

But what is a cyborg? A cyborg is described as a  fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body. On reading Technologies of the Gendered Body, Anne Balsamo, 1996 according to Balsamo, these hybrids are “neither purely human nor purely machine”. Talking about binaries a dew sessions ago, this book goes to explain how dual dispositions are never symmetrical. Harway goes on to argue that cyborgs have the potential to disrupt the persistent dualisms that have been “systemic to the logics and practices of women, people of colour, nature, workers, animals”. Some of the troublesome dualisms include culture/nature, human/artificial, male/female, as well as other such as reality/appearance, truth/illusion, theory/politics. Cyborg bodies, then cannot be conceived as belonging wholly to either culture or nature, they are neither wholly technological nor completely organic. “Cyborg bodies cannot be completely discursive. Cyborgs are a matter of fiction and a matter of lived experience”.

Ear on arm credit ABC-970-80

Doctor Von Hagens



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BA (Hons) Final Year Ceramics student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Love experimenting with material and techniques and work on a range of medium.

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