Stelarc and Masochism

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Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch was an Austrian writer from the mid to late nineteenth century. The term masochism was derived from his name due to the nature of his renowned romance novels. In his literary analysis of Sacher-Masoch’s novels, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in 1967, brought attention to the importance of an assistant, ‘an agreement between partners, which Sacher-Masoch had literized by drawing up actual contract,’ (O’Dell, 1998, p.4). However, earlier, in the late nineteenth century, the term masochism was used by Richard von Krafft, a French philosopher, to give a name to what he viewed as a ‘desire to harm one’s own body,’ (O’Dell, 1988, p. 3). Without emphasising the more modern use of the sexualised word, it can be said that Stelarc, among other performance artists involved in performance with conscious intention of self-harm, performed masochistic acts. In 1949, Theodor Reik conducted an in-dept. clinical study of masochism and expressed the idea that there are four components to such behaviour. These components are listed as fantasy, suspense, demonstrati...

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