In 1972 the man born Stelios Arcadiou took on a new name. He refashioned himself as the artist Stelarc, whose work often explores what he calls “alternate anatomical architectures.” He’s probed his body with cameras, creating films that lay bare the visceral inner workings of his stomach, lungs, and colon. He’s deprived his body, spending five days with his eyes and lips sewn shut. He’s manipulated his body with electricity, connecting electrodes to his muscles and letting others move him like a drunken, flailing robot. And he’s augmented his body through exoskeletons and prostheses, including a mechanical third hand.

In 1976 he embarked on a series of “suspensions,” piercing his skin with long metal hooks, then hoisting his body into the air. He’d hang in different positions, sometimes alongside other objects (including rocks); sometimes his body was still, while other times it swung free or was moved by motors. Sometimes he broadcast the sound of his heartbeat while hanging. He did 25 of these suspensions, in locations as varied as an Australian elevator shaft, a Tokyo monorail station, and the sky above E. 11th Street in New York City. As he described them, the events did not demonstrate an ability of consciousness to transcend the body, nor an S&M-style conversion of pain into pleasure. Instead, he said, these “body sculptures” erased the artificial distinction between mind and body. Overwhelming pain — the kind you might experience hanging from metal hooks — forces us to experience ourselves as physical bodies, to recognize that we are our bodies. At the same time, he writes, “Suspended and in stress the anonymous body realises its obsolescence.”

Over his career, Stelarc’s work continues to re-examine the possibilities of this obsolete body as a site for experimentation. His current project, Ear On Arm, is a surgically constructed ear grown from cells and attached to, well, his arm. The ear will eventually be connected to the internet, allowing anyone around the world to listen through it. He is currently Chair in Performance Art at Brunel University London. Via email, he offered his thoughts on the human body's obsolescence, the possibilities of self-directed evolution, and why he finds other species so fascinating.