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Strange Movements: The Art of Appendages in Contemporary Practice (


The difficulty in ascertaining how the “prosthetic” functions across disciplines derives from the sometimes parallel, and often antithetical definitions given for what it constitutes. Many art historians use the prosthetic to illustrate psychoanalytical methodologies, largely ignoring physical technological devices, cybernetic body augmentation and its social effects – subjects expounded upon by many influential media and cybernetic theorists such as Norbert Wiener, Marshall McLuhan, Donna Haraway and N. Katherine Hayles. Prosthetics are not merely psychic trauma nor virtual signifier, but material artifacts marking autonomy, ability and disability, amputation and extension. A re-evaluation of prosthetics in contemporary aesthetics brings us closer to narrowing the uneasy gap between art historical and media discourses, and greatly enriches undervalued or mis-read artworks meant to explore subjectivities and their uneasy relationship with their various extensions. This paper concentrates on the crisis in autonomy as broached by Freud in his “Civilization and its Discontents”, and how Marshall McLuhan’s description of extension informs the “Aesthetic Prosthetic,” as exemplified in some of the sculptural works of artist Paul Thek.


Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology