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Choose ONE work of art, artifact or image (from either discipline) that is relevant to this unit. INTERPRET the relationships between the artistic and/or aesthetic and the scientific content it presents.
Stelarc, an Australian performance artist, has been making contributions to the artistic world since 1968. These performance pieces test the relationships between the artistic, aesthetic and scientific fields. Stelarc believes that "the body has always been inadequate", and that "this obsolete, absent and empty body needs to be augmented". The performance pieces that are quite possibly Stelarc's most widely known are The Extra Ear series, with The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm being the most discussed and prominent.
After completing his Third Hand Project in 1981, then using laser eyes, muscle stimulators, interactive video and modulated sounds until 1994 to complete the Third Hand Performances, it was time for Stelarc to begin work on his new performance piece. This was the beginning of The Extra Ear series. The Extra Ear was first designed as an ear on the side of the head. However, this placement later proved to be extremely difficult. The Extra Ear: ¼ Scale involved growing small replicas of Stelerc's own ear using living cells. Most recently in the series is The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm. This piece began the surgical process to construct a full-sized ear on his own forearm, and turn it into an ear that would transmit the sounds that it hears.
Stelarc has stated that the motivation behind his piece The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm came from his desire to engineer a soft prosthesis using his own skin. The result of engineering this prosthesis aesthetically means that it would act as "a permanent modification of the body architecture". The modification of the architecture of the body can create the notion that if the body was distorted in such a way, it might cause the body to adjust its own awareness.
The aim of The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm piece is to engineer a different piece of anatomical architecture, creating one that will also perform in such a way that it will use the science and technology of audio transmission to engage the audience . What then becomes important in the piece is not just the body's identity and architectural form, but its connectivity. The ear, a prominent facial feature will be replicated, relocated and enabled to perform an alternate role.
So far, Stelarc has completed two surgeries for The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm piece. In the first surgery, a left ear was constructed on his left arm. This constructed ear was designed to be an ear that not only 'hears' its surroundings, but also transmits this sound.Image Set: Surgery Photography. All Photos: Nina Sellars
A second procedure was undergone, intended to complete the piece. In this process, a miniature microphone was positioned inside the implanted ear on the left forearm. Once the second surgery was completed, the inserted microphone was tested with successful results. The clarity of the transmission was exceptional, with the microphone picking up the sound of Stelarc and the surgeon's voices through the plaster dressings required for the healing process. Unfortunately, Stelarc had an adverse reaction to the implanted microphone. As a result, the microphone had to be removed several weeks later. The infection caused by the implanted microphone was so serious that huge efforts were undertaken to save the initial implant from the first surgery after the microphone was surgically extracted.
As the second surgery was unsuccessful due to infection, there will be another final procedure that will aim to re-implant another miniature microphone. This microphone will be able to facilitate a wireless connection to the Internet, making the ear a detached listening device for people all over the world. This project has been about replicating a bodily composition, relocating it on the body, and now altering it to perform alternate functions. It creates both an urge to manipulate the body's evolutionary architecture, and also combine electronics inside the body. As a result, it can be said that Stelarc has developed organs that operate better, and interact with the world in a vastly different manner. Because of this, it is now possible to engineer multiple external organs that can be developed to better function in the technological and industrial landscape into which society has progressed.
Stelarc states that The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm piece "sees the body as an extended operational system". This is done through the alteration of the body's awareness by extending it. Stelarc also has more ideas to further the functionality of this piece, as he is designing the ear to act as a part of an extended and distributed Bluetooth system. In this extension of the piece, a Bluetooth receiver and speaker would be positioned inside Stelarc's mouth. This would give the audience the opportunity to telephone him. He would be able to speak to the audience through the ear on his arm, but he 'would hear your voice inside' his head via the receiver and speaker in his mouth. In this scenario, If Stelarc kept his mouth closed, only he would be able to hear the voice that is calling him. Alternatively, he could open his mouth, and if someone was close to him that person would hear the voice 'of the other' coming from his body, 'as an acoustical presence of another body from somewhere else'. This supplementary function for the The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm piece would successfully alter the body so that it would include an internet organ.
The connectivity of the implant is important not just to record data or utilise the location of the piece, but to change the interface of the body. The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm shows us that as technology becomes more and more dominant in our society, the natural progression is to begin to incorporate this technology into our bodies in a biological manner. The idea of adding a prosthetic attachment and implants such as an ear is not to merely replace a part of the body. These are prosthetic objects that effectively enhance the body's architecture by engineering extended operational systems of bodies and body parts that may be geographically separated, but through the engineering are ultimately electronically connected.
The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm piece has facilitated the body so that it now performs 'beyond the boundaries of its skin and beyond the local space that it occupies'. The piece has allowed Stelarc's bodily presence to be projected around the world. As a result, Stelarc states that 'the notion of single agency is undermined, or at least made more problematic'. Through the piece, the body has been altered and transformed into a link, or a connection between bodies that are not forever separated, removed and excluded from each other because of the distance between each of the bodies' skin, or the need for each body to be in immediate proximity to one another.
In Stelarc's own words, his Extra Ear: Ear on Arm piece means that 'we can experience remote bodies, and we can have these remote bodies invading, inhabiting and emanating from the architecture of our bodies, expressed by the movements and sounds prompted by remote agents'. What is being produced and experienced in this piece 'is not the biological other', but as Stelarc states, an 'excessive technological other, a third other'. As Stelarc believes that 'the body has always been inadequate' he has also stated that 'the biological body is not well organ-ized'. In his opinion, there is a necessity to embed the Internet within the human body, and this needs to be done so in intimate ways. The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm project proposes an alternate anatomical architecture. Through the engineering of the ear, the new organ for the body, it creates an available, accessible and mobile organ. As this new organ is so accessible, it allows the locating and listening interaction between the body and people elsewhere.
Stelarc's performance art is unique due to the fact that he pushes what are traditionally seen as boundaries in the performance art genre. He consistently tests the relationships between the artistic, aesthetic and scientific fields through his performance pieces, and The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm project is no exception. The piece encompasses not only the bodily sculpture genre of performance, but uses the fields of anatomy and human biology, and the science and technology of audio transmission to engage the audience. Stelarc's future plans for The Extra Ear: Ear on Arm project aim to further cross the lines between art and science, so that it will connect to the audience like never before. Ultimately, the fusion of both the artistic and scientific fields has created a performance piece that has not only enhanced the body's architecture, but also engaged an audience through the use of scientific methods.