WRO online thematic path
Mar 23-29, 2020


WRO online thematic path
Mar 23-29, 2020



Observing bodily symptoms: Or, everything that artists can tell you about the body!

Diseases tend to develop slowly, but every now and then they attack us all of a sudden and completely by surprise. As internal changes are extremely difficult to detect without specialist apparatuses, we are compelled to rely on external symptoms. The WRO’s second program of online shows explores body matters, such as transformations in thinking about the (non)human body, challenges to the body-mind dualism, and multiple iterations of posthumanist bodiliness, which we no longer consider a self-contained scheme, but view it as an open site of fluctuations, flows, and variables.

To start the week, we showed the recording of Second Body, a performance by the Anarchy Dance Theater. Underpinned by a linear narrative which revolves around the becoming of a new body, if not around the shattering of the concept of the “body” as such, the performance made for a high-intensity opening, its movement layer pulsating with high-voltage tension. The show dismantles all our thought habits and seeks to institute a new, fluid model of the eponymous “second body,” which, when merged with technology, we may someday be able to upload on the internet.

The intensity did not subside in the subsequent – Tuesday – project. Already a classic of the genre, yet still not losing anything of its utterly provocative appeal, Stelarc’s Third Hand was in the making for nearly twenty years, paralleling the explosive rise of cyberpunk stylistics and the staggering advancement of information technologies. Spurning Renaissance thought, Third Hand demolished the Vitruvian man, as Stelarc augmented his body by adding a neuromechanical limb to it. In doing this, he highlighted the ways in which we constantly self-enhance beyond the limits of our own form, when, being online, we reach beyond out cognitive tools and thus go beyond our bodies.

Wednesday was devoted to the Taiwanese artist Ya-Wen Fu. In 2015, she presented her performance Space-in-between at the WRO Biennale. Fettered by several strings and metal hoops, she was traversing the stage with an installation unraveling and emitting sounds behind her. Fused with a machine into one organism, the artist negotiated her position with it and, depending on her movements, severely constrained by her body-imitating costume as they were, her struggles – transmitted through tie-rods – appropriated the capacious hall, turned into a mesh of spanning string, together with its soundscape to produce a human-nonhuman conglomerate.

Peter William Holden’s post-body installation even more strongly hinges on symmetry and on extraordinary experiences derivable from it. Arabesque was composed of cast limbs, which Holden mounted on a wheel, far enough from each other to prevent them from interfering with each other’s motions, yet close enough to produce an effect of kaleidoscopic reflections. Arabesque draws on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a celebrated classic which gifted contemporary posthumanism with one of its metaphorical heroes – an electrically powered creature made from human body parts, yet not entirely alive.

Friday is the day of passage, of stronger impact, of multiple energies flowing through. The documentation of Józef Robakowski’s performance I am electric literally shocks; this is true in particular for the protagonist, who has electrical impulses applied to him. Robakowski has constructed a closed circuit with an electric bulb, with alternating current of maximum 250 volts flowing through it. The artist invites friends and strangers to participate by increasing the voltage from 0 to the upper limit. As electricity shoots through Robakowski’s body, the bulb eventually lights up as a metonymy of a concept, an artistic idea. A lot of suffering must be borne for the bulb to actually flare up, and the audience does not spare the artist. Is Robakowski’s performance an intervention on his own body, or is it perhaps an exercise in manipulating the pressure applied to the audience (and the other way round)? Whatever view we opt for, we can certainly interpret the work in the light of Stanley Milgram famous “electric-shocks” psychological experiment of 1961. Both concern authority and electricity.

In his Embodiment, Piotr Wyrzykowski doubly embodied a videotape: first by using a VHS camera to videotape his upper body and head and then by removing the tape from the cassette and wrapping himself in it. He imprinted his body on the tape, and then pierced it with a needle leaving marks both on the tape and on his body, only to insert the tape back into the cassette. The original videotape is stored in the collection of the WRO Art Center and still has the artist’s DNA on it. The coils of the videotape preserve both the electronic recording and the biological traces. In this way, the physical materiality and the materiality of the image have become irrevocably intertwined.

In her Tribute to Karl Sims, Megan Daalder seeks to evoke empathy for the figures generated by Karl Sims on the basis of genetic algorithms – pure zoe, most fully alive perhaps. Sims’s animation Evolved Virtual Creatures of 1994 immensely contributed to the popularization of new horizons emerging through digital simulations of biological processes. Arising from the biological sciences, the concepts of programing life and digitally simulating its evolution were used by Sims in his computer animations. For this reason, his works boast a special position in the history of digital animation as a powerful symbol of new ways of thinking about digital genetics and bodiliness as issuing forth and capable of moving in digital ecosystems. Sims’s creatures were able to move, jump, and swim. Daalder renders their motions in her performance, whereby she reverses the process of territorializing, which people as a rule implement in the world to impose their models. By relinquishing our standard evolutionally produced and culturally trained movement modes, the artist shows that in using our bodies we can learn otherwise and from other organisms through studying them, watching them closely and imitating them. In this way, she also pays tribute to Sims, who expressed the human and the empathetic in alternative, geometrical forms of digital organisms.

Anarchy Dance Theatre (TW)
Second Body
documentation of the performance
13 & 14 May 2016
NFM | The National Forum of Music, Wroclaw
Eco Expanded City 2016

Stelarc (AU)
Cyberhuman: Involuntary Body / Third Hand (Split Body: Voltage-in / Voltage-out)
performance and an artist talk
Apocalypse Room in Grotowski’s Institute
4th May 1997
6th Media Art Biennale WRO 97 Geo/info-territory

Ya-Wen Fu (TW)
documentation of the performance
14 May 2015
Polski Theatre Świebodzki Stage
16th Media Art Biennale WRO 2015 Test Exposure

Peter William Holden (UK)
documentation of the installation
exhibition at the BWA Awangarda gallery
13th Media Art Biennale WRO 09 Expanded City

Józef Robakowski (PL)
I am electric
TVP studio in Wrocław
WRO 96 Monitor Polski
2-5 May 1996

Piotr Wyrzykowski aka Peter Style (PL)
TVP studio in Wrocław
WRO 94 Monitor Polski
5-8 May 1994

Megan Daalder (US)
Tribute to Karl Sims
excerpts from the performance and an artist talk
12 May 2011
Apocalypse Room in Grotowski’s Institute
14th Media Art Biennale WRO 2011 Alternative Now