The Stomach Sculpture was developed for the Fifth Australian Sculpture Triennale in 1993. The theme was site-specific work, but this sculpture was not for a public space but for a private physiological space - and empty organ.
The sculpture was constructed with the assistance of a jeweller, a micro- surgery instrument maker and a musician. The materials used (gold, silver and stainless steel) were biocompatible and not reactive to the acidic contents of the stomach.
The sculpture was tethered to an external control box and actuated by a servo motor and a logic circuit. The worm-screw and link mechanism was simple and reliable. The sculpture had to close into a capsule so it could be safely inserted down the oesophagus into the stomach. The stomach was inflated with air to make the insertion safer. The insertion was filmed with a medical endoscope. The sculpture had to close to be extracted. Failure to do so would have resulted in a number of complications. The diameter of the sculpture control cable was 8mm and the endoscope 10mm. The artist directed the insertion and video documentation watching the monitor. It required as many as six insertions over a period of two days to record about fifteen minutes of video.
Once inside the stomach, there was a simple machine choreography with the sculpture opening and closing, extending and retracting, with a flashing light and a beeping sound.
It was inserted 40cm into the stomach cavity. Not as a prosthetic implant but as an aesthetic addition. Not for some medical necessity but as an act of contingency. The body becomes not a site for the psyche, nor for social inscription but merely a site for an artwork.
The performance occurred in a private clinic 5 minutes from a hospital, in case the stomach was accidently punctured. The only people in attendance were my assistants and a photographer. The endoscopist, preferred to remain anonymous. The sculpture was exhibited as an object in-itself with the accompanying internal video at the NGV, Melbourne 1993.
The body is experienced as hollow with no meaningful distinctions between public, private and physiological spaces. The hollow body becomes a host, not for a self but simply for a sculpture. As surface, skin was once the beginning of the world and simultaneously the boundary of the self. But now stretched, pierced and penetrated by technology, the skin is no longer the smooth and sensuous surface of a site or a screen. Skin no longer signifies closure. The rupture of surface and skin means the erasure of inner and outer. As interface, the skin is obsolete. The significance of the cyber may well reside in the act of the body shedding its skin. Subjectively, the body experiences itself as a more extruded system, rather than an enclosed structure. The self becomes situated beyond the skin. It is partly through this extrusion that the body becomes empty. But this emptiness is not through a lack but rather through excess, from the extrusion and extension of its capabilities, its new sensory antennae and its increasingly remote functioning.
JASON PATTERSON - Engineering of Sculpture
RAINER LINZ - Sound and Control Circuitry
NATHAN THOMPSON - Light Consultant
ANTHONY FIGALLO - Photographer