R. Nicholas Starr
Editor’s Note: The event of the website which hosted this article, BDYHAX, is no longer taking place, and this article is being saved due to the risk their website may soon be taken down. Wikipedia basically describes body hacking as transhumanism with high risk-tolerance, but it is my hope as technology progresses those risks will become negligible, and the variety in form we see with our physical manifestations will be limited more by imagination than anything else.
~ Zach Richardson, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, January 11, 2024
An Interview with BDYHAX Presenter Russ Foxx
Art gives birth to scientific innovation.
In an effort to learn more about the historical origins of transhumanism and posthumanism, R. Nicholas Starr began a journey to look at the many topics popular within those communities and retraced them back to art. To continue the research he began to reach out to the artists and scientists at the forefront of exploring this relationship. While he continues to prepare his research for publication, he has decided to release the transcripts from these interviews in hopes to spark conversation and gather even more insight into how the creative mind has shaped our scientific world as we move past the limits of the human body.
R. Nicholas Starr is a multimedia artist, biohacker, researcher, and theorist. With an education in signals intelligence from the United States Air Force, and 20 years of experience creating art and performing music in the US and abroad, he has become a unique voice for the US Transhumanist Movement and American policy.
The first in this series is an interview with Russ Foxx, world-renowned body-modification and suspension artist, and fellow cyborg.
R. Nicholas Starr: When a client comes to you looking for a “body hack”, do they usually have a specific function/task in mind, or are they just exploring the possibilities?
Russ Foxx: My clients generally have a solid idea of what they want to accomplish prior to contacting me. I don’t push my own ideas on people; rather I’m a catalyst in helping people upgrade themselves to fit their desires. I’ll certainly advise if I feel that an individual may benefit from a certain type of modification in their situation, but people usually do their homework. That’s how they find me to begin with.
RNS: Have you noticed a specific trend in what people want?
RF: In terms of functional implants and human-mountable devices, I commonly work with Magnetic Vision, RFID, NFC, North Sense and Transdermal Implants. I’ve also worked with the North Star V1.0 and the Firefly V1.0.
Social media certainly plays a role in what’s popular at any given time, which gives me the opportunity to roll out new mods and ideas as I see fit. I’m currently waiting on a few different implantable devices that are in the works, so you’ll hear about them when they hit my feeds!
RNS: How much of an inspiration do you think science fiction has been for biohacking and transhumanism?
RF: Science fiction has been huge for me. Having grown up rural; Sci-Fi and horror films and literature during childhood definitely shaped my ideas from a young age. I still find inspiration from them to this day.
RNS: Do you think approaching biohacking in a more artful way, like your tattoos incorporated with the Northstar implant, will help spread the idea?
RF: Unless I’m telling a story via stage performance, I’m not really trying to “spread the idea” per se. I choose to look how I want to look and upgrade what I want to upgrade. I don’t hide my mods, so they tend to be seen a lot on the street and online.
I’ve always been a fan of mixed mediums in art, which is why I incorporated my North Star V1.0 implant into my biomech chest tattoo work. This creates a complimentary coexistence of art and technology in my body; reminiscent of Iron Man’s Arc Reactor.
RNS: What was your first cyborg influence?
RF: Outside of film, Stelarc was certainly one of my first cyborg influences. His views on the obsolete body always resonated in me and inspired me to look at my own body in a similar way. His ear-in-arm project continues to move forward, which actually brought some inspiration to a project I’m currently working on involving sound transmission in my own body. I’ve been 100% deaf in my left ear for most of my life and decided to start working on ways to increase my sound input capability using my own devices rather than limited ability hearing aids currently on the market.
RNS: A small collection of bioartists using live tissue to create art (for example Catts & Zurr’s living leather jacket). As a body artist, how could you use that technology?
RF: I really like their concept of creating victimless leather, although the current state of this experiment is unknown.
Skin grafting using stem cells has been existent in the medical field for quite some time now, which is a relative idea with functional applications in the body. It hasn’t yet been seen entering into the body modification realm, but I don’t doubt its arrival into the picture someday. It’s usually the high costs that hold back a lot of medical technology from the reach of artists.
RNS: As someone who performs with body modification, namely suspension, do you see a possibility for a functional biohacking-driven mod performance? If so, what would it look like and what would be the message? If not, why not?
RF: Stage performance has always been a means to push the limits and boundaries of my body and mind. My past performances have been very primal and visceral, often inspiring buildups of tension and suspense and sometimes even crowd members fainting.
I’ve taken some time off from performing in the last couple years to focus on my modification work, but I plan to be back on the stage soon. Moving forward I see myself putting focus on interactions between technology and biology in ways to challenge our current ideas and relationships with technology.
RNS: In movies and comics we see huge amounts of tech crammed into a person. How much can one body support when it comes to functional implants?
RF: When it comes to implanted technology there will always be limitations in terms of implant size and functionality. Space must be created in the body where the implant is intended to go, while preserving the body’s ability to naturally function and heal. This often requires adapting one’s lifestyle to an extent.
I currently have 4 implants in my left hand alone (3 functional & 1 cosmetic). The functional implants (Magnetic Vision, RFID, NFC) are quite small and placed in locations that will not hinder everyday activities.
Keeping the implantable devices small will make them more easily accepted by the body. This supports the human body as having a vast amount of upgrade capabilities.
RNS: Through dermal piercings, would it be possible to expand current biohacking technology (biofeedback interfacing, extrasensory beyond magnets, interchangeable hardware)?
RF: Transdermal implants and dermal anchors can certainly be used as hardwired interfaces/ports to devices within the body. This idea does not work without consequence though, as it creates an access point for bacteria to enter the body even after much time has passed. As this method increases infection risks, it’s generally seen as less than ideal. Bluetooth connectivity and induction charging are proving to be more solid options in this area.
RNS: How can biohackers, as a small but expanding community, take transhumanism towards a nationally influential movement?
RF: Stay focused on personal safety and the safety and well-being of the public just as much as the progression and pioneering of new ideas. Support open-source information and resource sharing. Collaborate with others. Utilize maker spaces and support events like BDYHAX and BMXNET. Challenge yourself to think outside the box and reprogram your own mind and the world around you. Allow yourself to evolve and adapt with the times and state of the world around you. Share the love.