-hey there Lukas and thanks a lot for taking the time to reply to us! Which part of the world are you in at the moment and what are you working on, what has 2010 brought you so far and what are your plans for the near future?
LZ: It’s my pleasure! i’m currently in Paris apprenticing a very close friend of mine for heavy body modification. 2010 has been good so far, i’ve been working closely with the italian company Micromutazioni in develloping a brand new catalog featuring tools and implant jewelry for extreme mods. I designed for them a new prototype for transdermal implants which we will soon be putting to the test and i also was finally able to unveil a new implant i inserted in my arm a few years ago. This is my new pride and joy since its healing so nicely. I’m the only one with the prototype and i believe this type of implanting technology will be revolutionary. It will at last be possible to replace large areas of skin with metal and incorporating electronic components. This is an immensely important step for me, i haven’t seen any progress in the body modification community in years. Everyone seems to copy whatever has been done already but no one has taken the inititative to create something avant garde. There has been a few minor adjustments done on already existing pieces or techniques but unfortunately the market was flooded before anyone had properly taken the time to evaluate effectiveness and safety. People get hungry in this “business”, want fame and money and are willing to rip off anybody just to get credit. I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen, i, samppa von cyborg and XeddyX will be the only ones performing this procedure, if anybody wants this implant they’ll have to come and get it from us !
-Body Hacktivism in popular culture took a leap with Stelarc’s Golden Nica award – but where is that critical point when BH as such becomes commercially acceptable? RFID is already available for implanting and advances in touchscreen prototypes already use the body as canvas. Still, how do you see the breakthroughs and the level BH is accepted in society?
LZ: I put in a RFID chip in my arm about 5 years ago and remember how strongly criticized i was from the mainstream as well as the body mod community. Now the first chip has been infected with a virus to contaminate computer systems, this experiment was conducted by british scientist dr Mark Gasson who has directed professor Kevin Warwick’s research team. At the time my chip only had a very simple application, to open a door but i did this to demonstrate the close relation between body modification and science and what the two can achieve together but more importantly my goal was to educate people on how easy it is to combine these and not necessarily to our advantage. This is where body hacking takes on a whole other meaning. Yes we do have many new wonderful technologies but many of these are intruding in our privacy and taking away our freedom. This is why it is so important to understand these technologies and their possibilities, fast forward to the future and be aware of what the government can do with them and always stay one step ahead and be knowledgeable and possibly offer services such as removal of these chips if let’s say there came a point in time where they became mandatory at birth. So its very difficult to retain the perfect balance between being “commercially accepted” and remain underground. And it is ironic how even contemporary art has now been accepting and giving awards to pioneers such as Stelarc who in my eyes is on top of the chain and embodies the notion of Body Hacktivism since they were always the first to point a finger saying we were mad scientists experimenting on humans, that what we were doing was not art, they kept revendicating themselves as being progressive and open minded, this shows us that we were too avant garde even for the modern art world but fortunately we do have support coming from academic circles made up of professors, sociologist and anthropologist who follow this movement closely and share many common opinions.
-BH is regarded to be mere eccentricity by many opposers of body hacktivism, although it is more like a reflection to reality, a return to a previous, tribality-focused mindset of a society. That tribality still exists but the motifs and the symbols have gone above skin depth. How does one get past the fear of experimenting with herself and how does skin and body as canvas regain its original values?
LZ: If there is a certain tribility then its symbols have gone below skin depth not above. I created the term body hacktivism out of necessity to redefine a new movement of artists who are working around mutations and using body modifications as a medium. This being the philosophical approach of the manifesto I did not feel that terms such as modern primitives was adequate to represent my philosophy. Of course some of these modifications notably suspensions, scarifications and lobe stretching have been around since the dawn of time and do represent some kind of rite of passage but we do not live in tribes anymore and unfortunately i see a lot of these “rituals” simply as cultural pillage. Sure some ritualistic elements can be found in these practices but i would rather see us create our own rites instead of ‘borrowing” or “appropriating” ancestral beliefs which are not in adequation with our times. We are living in an era where techno-medical discoveries are getting ahead of us and we have very little knowledge and control over some of these technologies that are being imposed upon us. Body hacktivism questions the freedom of choice concerning transformation options our society is facing and re evaluates the notion of collective interest versus individual interest. This is the same collective interest that makes me uncomfortable because it has too many tribal references. Even within the modification community we are seeing this phenomenon of mimicking. So many possibilities are available to stay away from this mold yet we always see the same piercings, implants etc. As far as body hacktivism being regarded as eccentric, wouldn’t that be some kind of compliment? Eccentric, original, unusual are all synonyms. And the opposers you mention often fit the same profile, religious extremists who believe that god has created man in his image and to alter this body is a sin.
-What’s your take on regenerative medicine, regrowing fingers, limbs and organs? Is it just DARPA’s media machinery as acknowledged stem cell researchers tend to say, what do you think?
LZ: I’m all in for erradicating illnesses! This is an incredible breakthrough but implicates a lot of ethical issues. Even though there are so many different types of stem cell research, adult, amniotic, umbilical, unfortunately the one that gets all the attention is the embryonic type and the controversy once again comes from religious fanatics who believe life starts at conception or that these research will inevitably lead to reproductive cloning. The first cell has now been “created” with a synthetic genome by Craig Venter and his team. This triggered a strong reaction by the vatican as you can imagine since this new finding does shake the grounds of their belief, that man can not create life, that it is simply a production, but my main concern lies on a different level. Who will detain the rights for the patents, at what cost? We’ve already seen organizations battle over exclusivity notably WARF and Geron Corp. Another moral debate comes to mind, since so many countries have different laws about stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research has divided the international community, using the human embryo is permitted in Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Greece, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands. Meanwhile its illegal in Germany, Austria, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, and obviously some states in the U.S. are pressing for a complete ban on all types of these research. This leads me to wonder if progress in this field will be reserved for the richer countries because of insufficient funding in under developed nations? Creating an even bigger gap between third and first world? And aside from therapeutic purposes what will be other usage? if we project ourselves in the future and follow this logic its totally conceivable to see governments creating super human soldiers as war machines or sex bombs for the porn industry! Once again, this technology is in some ways a dream come true, i’m just not so sure i trust those in control and their motives because it’s all too easy to manipulate populations, specially in the name of medical research.
-If you had to express body hacktivism through music, art pieces or movies to get the message through, what pieces of art would you mention ?
LZ: as for a movie, kazunori Ito’s Ghost in the shell, I love the illustration work of french multi media artist Yann Mihn and most definately Ray Kurzweil’s human v2.0. all 3 illustrate the endless possibilities of the posthuman, mixing nanotechnology, robotics and cybernetics to surpass our last physical frontiers.
-How does mind hacking complement body hacking – how does BH intertwine with yoga, brainwave syncing or meditation?
LZ: yes of course i do hope that with any type of body hacking some preparation is involved. Wether it be before the act or after, one can not alter their body without altering their mind. For many, pain can be an issue but we must differentiate pain as a sensation from suffering. The pain experienced during a suspension for example is self induced and its goal is to surpass the body’s boundery to achieve a positive goal as opposed to pain that in involuntary caused by illness that must be endured with obviously some negative impact. Therefore the best way to overcome this pain associated with some of these practices is to prepare properly, even if some anesthetics are used one can not help but feel some apprehension.For instance i personally like to put myself in a very relaxed state before performing a suspension, i listen to music and focus on my breath. Each person has their own techniques, may it be yoga, zen or whatever the purpose is the same.
-Will it take eight more years for the Body Hacktivism manifesto 3.0 to be born ?
LZ: I think i’ve pretty much said what i had to say and the fundamental lines for body hacktivism are set. There is no interest for me to go back on it since i focus on the future, not the past. But of course there is always room for evolution and progress and i am working on a new text “in the beginning there was the future” which will most certainly create a definitive rupture between body hacktivists and the rest of the body modification practicioners which are to me much too conformists and normative.
-What are the best places in Paris for a body hacktivist ?
LZ: Unfortunately and quite paradoxically there aren’t really any places in paris solely dedicated to the body. Surely there has been a few interesting art exhibitions but it would be nice to see something turn up like a ‘faktory” for body hacktivists. If in lyon though there is The Abode of Chaos. This is one of the few places we are free to experiment and present performances, it’s our artistic laboratory!
-and a last thing ?
LZ: don’t be a victim of the future..invent it