After 20 years of trying, Curtin University professor Stelarc has finally grown a human ear on his arm and has plans to connect it to the internet.
The idea first came to him in 1996, but it took 10 more years to find a medical team ready, willing and able to turn his dream into a reality. Stelarc recruited the team from all over the world, and they set to work on inserting a scaffold underneath his skin. Six months later, tissue and blood vessels had enveloped the scaffolding. “The ear is pretty much now a part of my arm, it’s fixed to my arm and it has its own blood supply,” he said.
According to Stelarc, the team will now focus on making the ear three-dimensional by lifting it up from the skin and creating an ear lobe from the Australian professor’s stem cells. Once that process has been completed, a microphone with wifi access will be inserted and will be on all the time because it will not have an on-off switch. The public will be able to track the ear through GPS.
“This ear is not for me, I’ve got two good ears to hear with. This ear is a remote listening device for people in other places,” he said. “They’ll be able to follow a conversation or hear the sounds of a concert, wherever I am, wherever you are. People will be able to track, through a GPS as well, where the ear is.”
This is not the first time the idea had been implemented, but the first time around he was forced to remove the microphone due to infection.
“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. They’ll be able to follow a conversation or hear the sounds of a concert, wherever I am, wherever you are.”
Stelarc is a performance artist born in Cyprus and raised in Melbourne. His work has focused on showcasing and extending the limits of the human body, and the overarching theme in his work is that the human body in its natural state is obsolete.
He has integrated technology, and specifically robotics, in a host of his art performances, including over two dozen shows in which he was suspended in the air via flesh hooks. In the past, he has made use of spider-like robotic legs and a robotic third arm.