Kal Spelletich (US) Serberus, Fireshower, Mechanical Flower, Flight Simulator, Ring of Fire, Throat Singers, Monkey On Your Back

Interactive happening, 2006

I build machines and robots that I allow my audience to operate. My art is a mix of technology, sculpture, computers, science, bio-feedback, inventions, fear, play, audience interaction and storytelling.

The main collaborators are the audience. I am not trying to humble people who volunteer to operate my art, rather empower them by putting machines and technology in their hands. I am exploring how much a person is prepared to submit to external forces and how far s/he can allow a machine to intrude on the body. I am interested in a hybrid human machine system, out of body/split body experiences/phantom limbs, blurring the boundaries between man and machine and prostheticly augmenting the body.

I have been experimenting with bio-morphic inputs to trigger my art. EKG’s, respiration, EEG’s, proximity, voice stress monitoring, touch and sound. Hence humans power machines and thru feedback the machines power the humans. Bio-feedback has recently shown to give us what had previously seemed an impossible degree of control over a variety of physiologic events.

I am able to make the volunteers a ‘star’ by putting them in the spotlight. Risk taking has been found to be addictive, so I am experimenting with addictive behavior. The sensation of coming tragedy is a term Hemingway used to describe bullfighting, this is one of the things that engages the audience. I never operate the machines in the live performances. I am only interested in giving the audience a real life experience, not passive, nothing virtual here.

Chomsky believes we live in a culture of fear, I use fear as a medium, to affirm volunteers existence, to be thrilled with technology instead of fearing it, that there is something more important than this fear, to try and provide an alternative to the innate thing to go to war.
There is a sect in Buddhism that uses shock and violence to attain enlightenment (to be a Buddha in the eye of the storm). Joseph Campbell believed that participation in ritual could put you into a direct experience of mythic reality. Theater's roots lay in public spectacle and religious rite, I am interested in building machines that work therapeutically and as a form of play. My work attempts to challenge both the applications of technology and the boundaries between the audience and performers. The machines and their interactions with the audience reinvent technology as its own antithesis—it is no longer the use of machines to replace people or do things they can’t, instead the machines facilitate the thing that only humans can do: feel.

I hear and I forget. I see and I believe. I do and I understand. - Confucius


I put a laptop on the lap of volunteers and they control sequences that triggers the dogs. As they press keys it triggers mouth close/open, firebreathing, neck and dog body movements, it is quite a ride… with the whole thing moving all over the place. The volunteer can turn them off when they want.

Mechanical Flower

Volunteer speaks into microphone and voice triggers pnumatic flower to open and close according to the way voice is emoted from volunteer.

Flight Simulator

Volunteer lays in simulator controlling it with 2 joysticks causing to tilt left/right, forward/back, spin right/left and to shoot blasts of fire or wind overhead.
The Flight simulator was built after 9/11 and i figured we should experiment with this new medium everyone was all excited about and have some fun with it, and, well, it was inspired by bucking bronco machines.

Throat Singers

4 large pipes are jetted with propane that are each specifically tuned to the pipe, producing droning tones that can be varied by the audience.

Ring of Fire

4 propane-powered cannons that eject fireballs on all sides of a volunteer. The cannons are triggered by a laptop computer via an 8 relay controller. Sequences are pre-programmed and are designed to be rhythmic, like a drum machine. The speed of the rhythm is selected to affect, if not control, the audience’s and the participant’s heart rate. Slow at first, faster throughout the performance. It is like being inside a Flaming drum machine.

Monkey On Your Back

Volunteer wears a backpack with a robot on it. There are flex sensors and an EKG (sensing your heartbeat) in and on gloves the volunteer wears. By manipulating the gloves and moving with the backpack on, the robot on your backpack responds. The EKG inside the gloves picks up a signal from your heart turning on and off a tail and spine on the monkey backpack. Two tilt sensors activate two arms near your shoulders. The flex sensors in the gloves allow two arms with articulated hands to lift up, reach in and out and opening and closing the hands.


Volunteer stands inside spinning cage that is on fire placing them in a tornado of fire.

Kal Spelletich (US)

I was born in an elevator and raised in Davenport Iowa (1960), the 7th of 9 children. Davenport was recently named “America's Worst Place to Live”. What a toilet. I was given a chemistry set at the age of 9, started blowing up aerosol cans in fires and experimenting with electricity and fire and fireworks about the same time. Started working at father's construction company once I could hold a hammer all day. I became interested in art and technology and “art that does things” at University of Iowa where I completed BFA in Interdisciplinary Art (1984). In 1989 I graduated from University of Texas at Austin in Media Art, MFA Interdisciplinary Art and got the hell out of there! In 1987 I founded SEEMEN, the collaborative effort of me and some forty technology inventors who enjoy building extreme machines and robots that they allow their audience to operate, who have since their formation presented more than 1000 performances and experiments throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. From 1991 till 1994 I worked with Survival Research Laboratories in Europe and the US. I'm currently exhibiting all over, mostly (still) in underground venues. I'm working with biomorphic inputs to trigger machines that give you a direct experience. I'm teaching at SF State and lecturing at other schools around the US. Among other my work is included in the collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Getty Museum.