Kal Spelletich was born and raised in Davenport Iowa, recently named “America’s Worst Place to Live.” Started working at father’s construction company once he could hold a hammer all day. The 7th of 9 childern. Shortly after being given a chemistry set at the age of nine, he started constructing tree houses, boats, blowing up stuff, experimenting with electricity, fire and alchemy in a childhood workshop in the families rambling Iowa home.
Kal ran away from home age 15 and never looked back. He started squatting abandoned buildings and living on the streets. Worked as a dishwasher, cook, carpenter, auto mechanic, day laborer, street scammer, plumber, factory, grocery store, salesman, teacher, carpenter, stagehand, fix it guy. At age 18 worked in the United Auto Workers Union at an International Harvester factory with 4,000 workers. Discovered art through a camera at this time. Put himself through undergrad and grad schools.
Kal founded Seemen, his interactive machine art performance collective, in 1988. Since then, Kal has performed, exhibited and lectured worldwide, collaborating with Survival Research Labs and countless others from a wide spectrum of people from punk rock bands to scientists, politicians to NASA, Hollywood television to film acting parts. He has turned down countless gigs, from DARPA, Lollapalooza, The Discovery Channel, HBO and on and on. He curates exhibits and is involved in politics. He now works on the waterfront of San Francisco in an industrial district where he scours junkyards and dumpsters for industrial items whose technology can be reapplied.
He explores the boundaries between fear, control and exhilaration by giving his audience members the opportunity to operate and control some fascinating and frequently 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, his work has been banned and yet he incredibly soldiers on. For 25 years he has been experimenting with interfacing humans and robots with humans using technology to put people back in touch with intense real life experiences and to empower them. Kal’s work is always interactive, requiring a participant to enter or operate the piece, often against their instincts of self-preservation.
He sometimes teaches and lectures at universities as well as exhibits all over the world, most recently in Namibia, Zagreg, Lubjianna, Leipzig, Brlin, Madrid, Vienna, NYC, Portland, London, LA, San Francisco and New Orleans.