Interview with Chayne Hultrgren

The Science Cowboy!

The premiere of The Space Cowboy’s brand-new show Stranger Than Fiction will be at Circus Arts in Byron Bay this week. The Space Cowboy puts Arthur C Clarke’s hypothesis of ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ to the test pushing his mind, body and science to the limit. Chayne Hultrgren, aka The Space Cowboy, spoke with The Echo about the unique work he does.

What link do you see between science and magic?

Often scientists use optical illusions to test or demonstrate how the brain makes sense of our world. Scientists have also worked with illusionists to discover how and why the brain literally travels back in time to fill in the gaps it thinks it missed while a subject is witnessing a trick. Throughout history science and magic often intertwine.

A magician is probably the most honest professional in the world, because he tells you he will trick you and then he does; however, in my new science stunt show there are not really any tricks because I explain how it all works. Over the years of performing I have discovered that most people believe the greatest trick a magician can do is to convince the world that the impossible is real, but when the magic is real yet seems impossible I believe this is the greatest trick of all. We are living in an amazing time; through modern technology and ground-breaking techniques I can show you how to hear movement inside the molecules of a solid block of steel, I will show you what your eyes really see and how your brain literally turns the world upside down to make sense of reality. I will show you why everything in this world you are experiencing is really just an illusion created by your brain. This is why I decided to show the science behind the seemingly impossible.

What is a ‘science stunt show’ exactly?

I have always loved performing extreme stunts like chainsaw juggling on a tall unicycle, swallowing swords, or performing underwater escapes, this show will be no exception. I currently hold 54 Guinness World Records (the most of any Australian) and I strive to push my limits every day. I wanted this show to be accessible to my large fanbase of young children as well as adults who are fascinated by science and peak human performance. I will show how science has made it possible for me to catch speeding arrows blindfolded, shoot long streams of electrical lightning from my body and dozens of other very unusual physical and mental feats.

Do you see yourself as a citizen scientist? What excites you about pushing into that realm?

I believe in this day and age, if people could name more prolific scientists than Kardashians the world would be a better place. Children are natural-born scientists; they are inherently curious about the workings of life so I know they are going to love this show. I also want to encourage adults to stay curious and keep wonder in their lives.

Your work is educational. How important is that to you to be opening people’s minds? 

This is my first educational show. I am very excited by the idea that not only will people love seeing these strange acts, bizarre stunts, and surreal science, but I can actually make a difference in people’s lives. We are living in a dangerous time where many are ignoring the science and continuing to add to the apparently inevitable destruction of our planet. I want this world to be flourishing for my young daughter and for all our future generations so trusting and believing in science is so important in our modern lives.

How do you come up with a ‘trick’ or one of your ideas about what you want to achieve? How do you work something from concept up to a performance?

I usually try to think of the most visual and amazing things I can imagine and then work backwards to try to make them happen. For instance, years ago I drew a sketch of myself floating in the air while shooting lightning bolts from my body. While I have not managed to achieve exactly this yet, I can now levitate objects with electricity and I can shoot one-metre-long lighting bolts from my body and from my swallowed sword while standing on a one-million-volt Tesla coil. I have also always loved looking through old books like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and The Guinness Book of World Records for inspiration. Once I find an idea I like I change it to fit my style or aim to improve it to make it seem even more impossible. I am so honoured that these very books, that have sparked my imagination since I was a young boy, now feature me so heavily. I have been featured in every Guinness Book of Records since 2008 and also dozens of Ripley’s Believe It or Not books and TV shows. There are also life-size statues of myself in the Ripley’s and Guinness museums around the world.

Have you ever significantly harmed yourself in the creation of a new idea or the execution even of something you have done before?

I have had a few injuries in my career. Most of them were not too serious. Before trying anything dangerous or potentially life threatening I spend a long time preparing and training. I understand that many of my acts seem totally crazy but I assure you there is a method behind my madness.

Do you think we have become too risk averse?

I have a 5-year-old daughter and I do feel that our children are all losing the chance to play dangerously. Not that I expect every child to be a sword swallower, but they should be able to take safe, calculated risks, working out how far things can be pushed in a safe environment. It is so important for our children to fall over and learn how to do it properly, touch things and realise how things work, take things apart and generally be a little wild. Yet our children are being robbed of their wild side.

Children need risk because it helps them develop good judgment, resilience, persistence, and self-confidence.

‘Can I climb one branch higher than yesterday? Can I jump from that tall rock to the ground?’ Only through risk can we develop and advance our existence.

What should we expect in your upcoming show?

Expect to see what you would consider impossible and learn how it works. Discover the power of the mind, body, and imagination. Learn tricks you can use to develop peak performance in your own lives. How through technology you can literally control others’ actions with your thoughts and see how I have made it possible to withstand over one million volts of electricity passing through my body and live to laugh and joke about it.

I recently won the top prize on the Science Channel’s hit television show Outrageous Acts of Science. I will show you how I won this award and I’ll show you so much more.

The Australian premiere of The Space Cowboy’s brand-new show Stranger Than Fiction will be at Circus Arts in Byron Bay on Saturday at 6.30pm. One show only!

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