Fire Shower

Kal Spelletich

Fear and Fun: Performing the Human-Machine Interface

Date 10/10/11

Affiliation Artist, San Francisco


I build machines, robots and installations for my audience to operate. This interactive work is inspired by political activism, volunteerism and getting people involved in life. The collaboration with the audience completes the work. My collaborators are the audience. The work does not exist without them.

I experiment with creating a feedback loop between participant and machine. This work questions the role technology plays in our lives. How far people are prepared to submit to external forces and how far they are willing to interact and play with technology. My work attempts to challenge and subvert the applications of technology, the boundaries between art, the audience, fear and play.

The dominant medium in the 21st century is technology. Technology is the overriding medium ruling, healing, pacifying and terrorizing us. It is saving lives, eases workloads, numbs us with inane entertainment, slaughters with deft precision and ruthlessness. Fear is also a source of terrorization. Terrorized by a fear of everything. This year it is financial collapse. The last few years it was terrorists. Previously Communists, Black people, Native Americans, next, maybe Martians. So, I also work with fear as a medium.

Some inspirations are, political activism, hybrid human machine systems, blurring the boundaries between man and machine and prosthetically augmenting the body.


Kal Spelletich was born and raised in Davenport Iowa, recently named "America's Worst Place to Live." He started working at his father's construction company when still a child. After being given a chemistry set at the age of nine, he started blowing up stuff, experimenting with electricity, fire, alchemy and constructing tree houses and launching boats on the Mississippi river. Kal ran away from home at the age of 15 and started squatting abandoned buildings and living on the streets.

He has worked with art collectives, rock bands, scientists, politicians, NASA, Hollywood television and filmmakers. He curates art exhibits and is involved in political activism. He has shown and collaborated in Africa, India, Mexico, and all over the US and Europe hundreds of times.

Spelletich explores the boundaries between fear, control and exhilaration by giving audience members the opportunity to operate and control some downright dangerous machinery. His work has terrified and thrilled tens of thousands of people all over the planet, gotten him in trouble with the law and thrown out of galleries.  People have cried, he has been threatened with violence and lawsuits and his work has been banned.

For 31 years Kal Spelletich has been experimenting with interfacing humans and technology to put people in touch with intense real life experiences to empower them.

-- As of 10/10/11