Stelarc & Bolt Ensemble Live

Jolted, Melbourne

published in The Wire No.463, London, 2022



James has produced a graphic score which extends Stelarc’s sweeping dovetails of delirious portamento pitching. The score is broken into around ten sections, concatenated as if it’s a ‘song set’; half atonal shimmers of sliding pitch confluence, half sudden eruptions of jazz-rock with surprising echoes of Sony Sharrock. As these five performers vibe and vamp, Stelarc’s five fingers open and shut with a series of amplified clicks. The contrast between these two ‘networked’ energies becomes clear: Stelarc is essentially trapped and suspended in his rig, becoming performatively disabled rather than corporeally enhanced, as per the augmentative rhetoric of post-body theories circa 2000. Comparatively, Bolt Ensemble musically soar and careen.

Stelarc as disabled? Let’s unpack that. While his experiments in extending muscular and neurological capabilities invite reflection on how artistic practice intersects with scientific investigation, all nascent technological developments can seem impractical and awkward. Stelarc’s high-tech spectacles often mute this perspective, aiming as they do for futurologist potentiality. But once you place such an operational figure in the context of something ‘traditional’ like a contemporary music ensemble rooted in Modernist sensibilities, the clash generates a fruitful dialogue between the two contrasting notions of radical progressivism.


Text © Philip Brophy. Image © Stelarc/Bolt Ensemble/Jolted.