Essay about Postmodern artists Mike Parr and Stelarc

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People usually expect to see paintings and sculptures in Art Galleries. Imagine the surprise one finds when they are presented with a man stitching his face into a bizarre caricature, or connected to a machine which controls the artist’s body. These shocking pieces of performance art come under the broad umbrella that is Postmodernism. Emphasis on meaning and shock value has replaced traditional skills and aesthetic values evident in the earlier Modernist movements.

Like many other Postmodern artists, Mike Parr and Stelarc create confronting, shocking, bizarre artworks that provoke a gut reaction from their audience. Their performance pieces make use of few traditional skills, but instead place emphasis on a concept, require immense
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In this sense, his own body becomes the medium.

Stelarc, another Australian performance artist, creates bizarre pieces that focus on extending the human body. This is embodied in his own quote, “The body is obsolete.” (Stelarc). He now works extensively with technology, producing elaborate mechanical ‘enhancements’ for his body, placing the body in virtual environments, and having his body controlled externally. His earlier work involved the filming of the inside of his body, and the suspension of his body from hooks. In a sense, it represented a “...probing and piercing of the body and determining its physical parameters and normal capabilities” (STELARC website), while his more recent work aims to “...extend and enhance the body...” (STELARC website). Like Parr, his works show little traditional art skills, and instead focus on the concept of futurism, and expanding the human body using technology.

Although both artists use few traditional skills and work with few traditional mediums, they make use of other skills, such as enduring pain, and pushing their bodies to the limits. Both artists evoke shock and surprise, one of the key elements of Postmodernism. Stelarc’s use of technology is also considered to be Postmodern. The question, ‘What is Art?’ is constantly challenged by Postmodern artists. Stelarc worked with performance art because he lacked painting skills, as evident in his quote “I

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