Sense-less, Bodylust in Dataspace and multiple Cyber SM

pop~FEATURE - Stahl Stenslie

Communications and Data Designer, as well as media designer Stahl Stenslie, a Norwegian, who is often based in Cologne, specializes in body interfaces as datasuits which have sensory stimuli and expanded receptors. He bases these ideas on the real systems of electronic-human hybrid worlds. His worlds work in strong contrast to the machine as extended organ, as they become a real part of a larger post-organic cyber organism with extended capability for emotions.


Cross_reference: Stahl Stenslie wrote a text of his own for Telepolis under the title Body Surf and Meat Sports.

In collaborations with specialists in hard and software construction, as for example Knut Mork or Marius Watz, Stahl Stenslie has created on-line, real time, virtual tele-experiments starting with Cyber SM (1993-94) and Inter_skin (1993), moving on to sense:less (1996) and working now on "solve et coagula".

Body data bank for CyberSM

In CyberSM in addition to a bodysuit with built-in sensors that may be activated by one's partner, he has also created a body bank - to allow a visualization process about one's partner prior to contact. By selecting the partner's sex, color and even their type of genitals, one is able to construct the sexual partner of choice...turning one's fantasy into a reality.

Inter_skin is an auto-erotic communication link, one that challenges the concepts of tactile interface by sending one's own tactile feelings back to oneself. While CyberSM *used a visual interface to influence and control the remote environment* the Inter_skin project took the body, which *became the interface for communication* between the participants through the use of "intelligent" touch suits. These suits become an "interskin" to convey, exchange and receive information. They represent a way of re_thinking communication and interface technology, channeling the concentration away from the object-oriented (the screen) towards the subject-oriented (the body).

SELF definition through Installations

Do machines function as extended bodies or are they, in the best case, liquid reception organs? In contrast to this symbolic theory, the "real/virtual" data worlds of Stahl Stenslie create their own post organic creatures.

Stenslie uses new possibilities for receptors, and spectators and users are represented in different levels in his installations. They can very often be considered experimental surroundings, because users and spectators are no longer fixed to their defined roles. The user becomes the spectator, and the recipient can also be active in navigating the emotions of the user and the machine creature. One can experience and feel different directions and points of view (even from other participants) through the machine interface. Often, the virtual creature within the system - or the system itself - can be influenced by interaction.

Inter_skin - definition through Installation

Inter_skin is an auto-erotic body experience which can be passed along to others, and is reciprocated in 1:1 relationship, or it can be programmed in a certain configuration. It is a communication system that is based on a third cyber organism existing in the net, which is a more female accessible with regard to the body as it's communication surface.

Inter_skin and CyberSM are effects systems. Working through virtual bodies stored within a data system, the body construction can be activated on the screen as a masculine orientated interface.

Stahl Stenslie

Inter_skin.....much resembles an early version of the SIM-STIMs (simulated stimulation) of William Gibson's novel Neuromancer.
Inter_skin is a sensual communication link, challenging the concepts of eroticism, adding a missing sense to electronic communication.
CyberSM is situated at the borders of possibility, by it's attempt at wiring the flesh.

At the end of the millenium, the body has turned into a schizoid corpus. It is on the one hand a single, unitary, physical object with a life span of approximately 70 years, and on the other hand it has done the quantum jump up into a transcendental, multiple self of mediated realities. The question is no longer what or who I am, but (how to be) all that I can be.

Stahl Stenslie

This essay of Stahl Stenslie describes perfectly the interface solutions for his installations CyberSM and Inter_skin, based on on-line network factors.

Check out a site devoted to networked artprojects: Mem_brane

SELF definition through Installation sense-less

Sense-less total view

Sense-less is an installation that was premiered at Electra '96 in Oslo. It plunges the user into a multisensory environment through VR technology and a special bodysuit.

It makes it possible for mere humans to experience another reality by technology. It's boundaries are dramatic space as dialogue rather than physical stage settings. The flight of the user, in this installation, is a research into multiple personalities. The spectators outside are able to watch the journey of the user inside the installation, through the projections on the outer skin of the sense:less sculpture. This five meter high construct, made of plastic and steel, is covered in a semi-opaque membrane. The user stands inside this elongated egg like shape which is mounted on a metal platform held in place and protected by outstretched arms of steel. Inside this one person receptacle, a stream of fresh air maintains it in an erect, veertical shape. Computers pump out the 3-D graphics, which are projected on the walls, on the skin of the scultpure, and in the VR goggles worn by the user.

Sense-Less Installation Overview

A speaker system transmits all the sounds heard by the user over personal earphones to the museum gallery public. Zipped inside the sculpture, the user wears a lightweight bodysuit, and stereoscopic VR goggles. The datasuit makes it possible to receive stimuli (as vibrations in different intensities) from computer graphic creatures. The stimuli received depends upon which creature the user navigates towards, and the intensity is determined by the personality of the creatures, and the interactions of the user.

Five creatures with human voices and virtual bodies are based on real personalities and real experiences. Each of them tells a story. The virtual worl they inhabit is a network structure in constant flux. It is based on realtime data transfer from a WWW server. By this fact, the users of the Internet become part of the installation and influence the graphic system. The Internet community is a virtually present in sense:less. The shape of the environment changes with the human activity in the same way that the hypertext structure of the server changes. They become points of the network.

The body of the future is the schizoid body. It is the moody, liquid expression of multiple ME's. When slipping into the electronic body of cyberspace, one is dressing in the cloth of possibilities, mutating into alternate personalities.

Stahl Stenslie
Die Welt von sense-less

Like most technically complex media work, sense:less was a collaborative process, a team effort that is frequently instrumental in the acheivement of advanced levels of interactivity. While many artists routinely utilize technicians, programmers, writers, and graphics artists, Cortex formed as an umbrella to name each of the contributors as equal partners, giving credit to a process and to the fact that specialized technical knowledge is considered part of the art making process. This process for sense:less was not without problems. Differences in experience, working habits and communication styles, expectations for the ultimate operation of the piece and its theoretical defination dissipated some creative attention and satisfaction of achievement in the work. For Stenslie, it seemed to be a compromise in his development of explorative work examining human sexual potential and connectivity over distances. Likewise, maintenance of the piece during the exhibition - which in fact did survive the throngs of eager users - became a major factor that demanded constant attention.

Cortex is comprised of: Knut Mork: application programming and text Kate Pendry: text, sound, voices Stahl Stenslie: bodysuit, insallation and design Marius Watz: graphic programmming and design

The definition of Intelligence through Installation, "solve et coagula"

Ansicht (Modell) von solve et coagula

The liquid and the solid is a trans-human cyber organism based on machine body experiences, establishing emotions of trans-species, worlds of mental and body experiences transpire.
A further development of interface by emotional approach, solve et coagula visualizes violent relations to establish a method to gain valid knowledge by media technique and real experience based on mutual trust.
The virtual is transferred into reality by physical and factual sensations in the body. Freak mutants, as Stahl calls it, they are factual creations of a fatal situation. You can not escape the experience once within it, it is not possible to switch it off...a brutal aspect of this work.

This new project, being created in collaboration with Knut Mork as grafic designer, is developing and changing with the stimuli received based on an original 3-D application. In comparison to sense:less (which was in development over one year mostly via the net) this is a concrete project being developed by personal collaboration in Oslo, and Stahl reports that the human phenonena and associative thinking towards the project has been spontaneous and fruitful.

The alchemist's term "coagula" is used as a metaphor for the question " can we define computer intelligence?" Human measurements are not transferred to this concept. A position for independent, non human intelligence evolvement is defined in this work by a simbiotic context of the data network. The life definition of "networks" itself, has boundaries. But, is poses the situtation, ...what happens if real life forms evolve in the networks.

Solve et coagula is the most complicated interface project by Stahl Stenslie, to date. It involves the design of complicated tactile stimulation factors, sensoric effectors, and data sensors which allow complex simulation through more than 100 points on the body. The data suit will react like a body itself, by interpreting touch, blood pressure, temperature, speech recognition, motion, eeg, and such functions for navigation tools. The project will focus upon a real cyber-organism living on the net, with feelings and character. The participant enters the organizm, and attaches to it like a parasite. The human user then experiences the world through the organism, and can use it for various experiences in the net. Dark and unknown emotions are exposed by the simbiotic development of the human and ist host.

A further development on the five synthetic personalities (the entities which were imprisoned in the environment of sense:less), solve et coagula is more radical and extreme because the user must live within a creature with multiple personality concepts. This is a liquid personality that coagulates. It is the place where the user meets virtual personalities in data space, and where they communicate, and also where they physically stimulate (the user) for communication exchange. The interface to this new world is already under construction. It is planned as an installation, and net users are a primary factor. The user will dive into this organism wearing a bodysuit, and will work as a sensoric organ for the greedy data creature. The creature will have a private server that makes communication with net users possible via a graphic interface. Spectators in the installation, as well as users, will be able to change the emotional state of the creature by accessing any one of three terminals based on three ribs (supporting arms) of the installation. (Kathy Rae Huffman and Margarete Jahrmann)