Stelarc is all ears – literally. The Cyprus-born performance artist has three ears – two where they belong and one on his arm. Stelarc, born Stelios Arcadiou, is known for such idiosyncratic performances as hanging by his flesh with dozens of hooks and allowing his body to be remotely controlled by electronic muscle stimulators connected to a website.
Now, the human body performer and body manipulator is pleased to show off his latest, hair-raising (and ear-splitting) conceptual art – a cell-cultivated ear grown in his arm that will actually be wired for Wi-Fi sound and linked to a website so users can log in and listen in to what Stelarc hears. Talk about playing it by ear!
Writes CNN: “It’s gruesomely fascinating and strangely beautiful, but is an ear on an arm art? Stelarc believes it is. And as he pursues further surgeries to install a Wi-Fi connected microphone that will allow people anywhere in the world to listen to what he hears, he hopes he can convince others of his vision.”
“The important thing for me is to plug in, extend the body with cyber-systems and see what it can actually do,” Stelarc explained. “For me the body is an impersonal, evolutionary, objective structure. Having spent two thousand years prodding and poking the human psyche without any real discernible changes in our historical and human outlook, we perhaps need to take a more fundamental physiological and structural approach, and consider the fact that it’s only through radically redesigning the body that we will end up having significantly different thoughts and philosophies.”
To wit – grow an ear where it doesn’t belong.
The concept for the ear started back in 1996. It was ten years until Stelarc could even find a plastic surgeon team willing to work with him. Funding was another issue – not many takers out there for artists shopping organ-on-arm art.
Stelarc’s third ear was created using a biocompatible framework often used in reconstructive surgeries. From that, the artist’s own stem cells were used to create a “skin” for the ear, and the entire thing was grafted into his left forearm and started to grow with him. He’s now working on an external ear lobe and a microphone that can be accessed by anyone around the world desiring to “tune in,” 24-7.
“This ear is not for me, I’ve got two good ears to hear with,” he said. “So wherever you are and wherever I am in the world you’ll be able to listen in to what my ear is hearing.”
Stelarc said he expected – and received – criticisms.
“Sometimes when what I’m doing is criticized, it’s an unfair criticism I think because it’s a criticism that doesn’t realize the value of our poetry, of our philosophy, of our artistic practice,” he said. “But I’ve found there’s a lot of goodwill from people who ordinarily would not have contact with an artist, and ordinarily would not see the reason for wasting time and money and their expertise on doing something like this, and that’s heartening.”
What do you think of Stelarc’s ear on arm project?