Stacey Yates and Denise Hicks write:
Stelarc is an Australian artist and post-humanist who believes that the human body is obsolete. He is acting on his belief, using his own body as an experimental laboratory. So who better to have on a panel at an event organised by Kinetica Museum about the convergence of art and science within the realms of robotics and cybernetics?
If the human body is obsolete, the only way forward is to embrace our already co-dependent (at times dependent) relationship with technology. Stelarc believes that it’s time to create a new design and architecture for the human body. To demonstrate its potential, he has been growing a left ear on his left forearm since early 2007, with the goal of making his body ‘internet enabled’.
After a year and a half, the ear is only in relief on his arm, but a third operation will lift it from the arm, giving it better definition. After that, he plans to implant a miniature microphone into the ear, connected to a bluetooth transmitter, enabling a wireless connection to the internet.
The microphone and transmitter will allow people to hear what the ear is listening to, wherever they may be. When electronically complete, it will form part of a distributed Bluetooth headset.
The body becomes internet enabled. The extra ear becomes an internet organ.
Although this all seems extreme, technology is increasingly being used surgically in cases of disability, such as cochlear implants for those that are deaf or hard of hearing. A quarter of teenagers say they are willing to go under the knife to improve the body they have (according to Great Ormond Street Hospital), and the quest for everlasting life (or at least a youthful glow) is a permanent feature in cosmetics aisles. Corrective laser eye surgery has become commonplace. If artists see the extremes of the future more clearly than the rest of us, Stelarc’s work suggests that it is only a matter of time before able-bodied consumers turn to technological ‘improvements’ to break through through the flesh-bound limitations of their body. Is it ‘man’ or ‘machine’? The question is already out of date. It will be both.