We gathered to watch a man fly. We expected him only to rise above the ground. Instead he soared.

How the crowd broke as he unexpectedly launched himself up and over our heads freer than we, though impaled and knitted into position by thin strong cables.

As he steered a breakaway figure eight course over our heads how we marvelled at his courage, debated about his madness, made judgements about his actions. How we forgot ourselves in this moment of intensified perception.

The space had been large. The crowd nervous. The ritual of sewing him into place performed by a woman.

Even more ritualistic the professional work of photographers. The cynical presence of reporters.

It was an exceptional event.

But were we there to see blood flow? If some hooks were misplaced - would the skin tear away in large strips under miscalculated weight? Would the skinsack empty like a punctured cask of claret?

Stelarc laughed behind his gray immobile face. But we, even more than he, were implicated in the thing that most lacked debate.

We were there to see Art. And that can justify anything.

Stelarc, Amplified body/Enhanced body, Science expo, Tsukuba 1985. Photograph: Takatoshi Shinoda