Why this man grew an ear on his arm

EAR ME, HEAR ME: Performance artist Stelarc, who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body, will speak at Southern Cross University partly about the ear he’s had grafted to his arm.
EAR ME, HEAR ME: Performance artist Stelarc, who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body, will speak at Southern Cross University partly about the ear he’s had grafted to his arm. Nina Sellars

PERFORMER and academic Stelarc's ear on his arm is in good shape for his visit to Southern Cross University this month.

The Western Australia-based performer, who has been exploring the ethics and aesthetics of robotics and prosthetics for decades will address Lismore at his public lecture entitled Zombies, Cyborgs & NanoBots: Embodiment, Identity and Agency.

However, before you start conceptualising his idea of "fractal and phantom flesh", you might want to get your head around the ear growing on the inside of his arm.

The ear was grown in a lab from cells and implanted into the Stelarc's left forearm in 2006.

A subsequent operation then installed microscopic electronic equipment in this third ear, with a view to both transmitting and receiving sound. Because of the danger of possible infection it was impossible to give the ear a technological "sense of hearing" and the equipment was removed. But the ear is still attached to Stelarc's arm.

The dream of having a blue-tooth enabled third ear is pending grant funding and further testing.

"It's quite stable at the moment," said Stelarc, who was born in Cyprus as Stelios Arcadiou.

"Originally, there were all sorts of problems. For a year it didn't look all that great. Basically, first, you've got a swollen red arm. There were some infection issues. There was no rejection as such but with every operation there is some possibility of some kind of infection," he said.

His audio visual lecture at Southern Cross University will expand on ideas of embodiment, identity, and how new technologies generate new types of perception.

Stelarc - who incidentally is a Samsung man rather than an iPhone fan - believes the body is not merely a biological body. He would know.

He has performed with a Third Hand, a Stomach Sculpture, and a Prosthetic Head.

He has worked with an exoskeleton, a 590kg prosthetic machine with six legs driven by 18 pneumatic actuators.

"We evolved as a soft organ body, with limited organs and limited sensory perception. Technology provides alternate experiences," he said.

"These days the body is a kind of contemporary chimera which is constructed of meat, metal and code."

Stelarc believes all technology in the future will be invisible because it will be inside the body. Micro and nano machines will recolonise the human body, augmenting its bacterial populations and provide early alert warning systems for internal pathological conditions.

The artist will refer to his projects and recent research to provide an overview of body, machine and computer interface.

Stelarc, is currently a Distinguished Research Fellow and Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art (SODA) at Curtin University.


Zombies, Cyborgs and Nanobots, a public lecture

Monday, June 29

4-5.30pm, with reception to follow

Southern Cross University's Lismore campus, D Block, room D129

This event is free and open to all, but places are limited. RSVP on the event page.

Topics:  editors picks southern cross university technology

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