Australian artist Stelarc is perhaps one of our most interesting. The 69-year-old is known for using himself as a canvas, suspending his own body from hooks in his flesh to swallowing a stomach sculpture to be followed via endoscope. Now, the artist is hard at work on a new project: to connect the ear growing on his arm to the internet.
The goal of the project is to allow people to hear and track his movements at all times. The ear on his arm was partly put there via surgery and party via cell growth. Stelarc writes that the implantation of the ear has required two surgeries thus far, the first in 2006 to create the space by stretching the skin—which resulted in dangerous necrosis—and the second to install a Medpor implant to shape the ear itself.
A small microphone was implanted during the second surgery and tested successfully, though it later had to be removed due to infection. A final surgery will be scheduled to reintroduce the microphone to Stelarc’s body.
Stelarc’s “Ear on Arm” project won him the Ars Electronica top prize in 2010, and it took him ten years to find surgeons willing to do the not-critical, not-life-saving surgeries, and even then the project caused some discomfort for other people who found it offensive. But Stelarc is dedicated to it now, this project that has been with him—literally—for twenty years, and hopes that it will allow people to hear things from all over in the world around them.
“Increasingly now, people are becoming internet portals of experience … imagine if I could hear with the ears of someone in New York, imagine if I at the same time could see with the eyes of someone in London,” Stelarc says.
Stelarc add that artists can be “early alert warning systems,” that they summon the coming future and its possibilities. When the “Ear on Arm” project reaches the vision Stelarc has for it, people will be able to tune in to his life at any time they please.
Says Stelarc of the “Ear-on-Arm” project: “I guess I’ve always got something up my sleeve, but often my sleeve is rolled down.”