60 mA: Experimenting with Performing with Electrodes/ Experiences in Digital Art Practice GEORG HOBMEIER
It’s been more than seven years since I started hooking myself up to a selfmade set of electro-shockers that allow external control of my muscles. Since then I had various parts of my body remote-operated in an artistic context, something I always enjoyed as a thoroughly extraordinary experience, especially for myself. The performances, installations and films that this technology was used in, were vastly different from each other: semiimprovised lecture performances about man’s obsession with technology, underground labyrinth installations with real chickens, real electrodes and a tunnel system, a short film made in a power plant, clandestine and confusing performances during lunch time in small snack shops, theatrical renditions of a philosopher’s kidney stones and more. Very little current is needed to achieve this mysterious muscle control override: with just two little AAA batteries an appropriate device can contract a muscle without any intention of its actual owner. The contractions themselves cannot be prevented, even juxtaposed muscle groups are helpless when the muscles move almost as if possessed by ghosts. There is a critical border, when the electricity becomes painful: 60 mA. Then the current burns like acid, while it flows through the body. Correctly used, less might suffice as well. The electricity then travels between applied gel pads, which are connected to a slightly battered-looking black plastic box that communicates with a computer via Bluetooth. Up to eight channels can be used to pull some strings on the performer’s body, and being that performer I found myself all too often covered in cables in these seven years, ready to get shocked for the entertainment and enlightenment of others. There were some rather odd and some particularly weird situations that reminded me that my interest in art might well be such encounters with the extraordinary, even if they would only last for a split second. I must stress at this point, that I didn’t take this journey alone. My comrades on this journey, in particular Frieder Weiss, Henry Vega and Juan Alzate Romero, were gifted artists and engineers, who took great advantage of my situation, enjoying themselves on numerous occasions, though I never gave them the satisfaction of putting the electrodes into my anus.