13 Jul 2016

The man who grew an ear on his arm

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:25 pm on 13 July 2016

One of the more intriguing guests at the Dunedin science festival is performance artist Stelarc, who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body, suspended himself with hooks in his skin, performed as a 6 legged walked robot and even grew an ear on his own arm.

The ear is actually a surgical construct on Stelarc's arm.

"So it’s partly surgically constructed and a cell grows. So if you can imagine inserting a construct of a porous material, you skin s suctioned over that scaffold over a period of six to eight months your cells grow into the construct, you get tissue ingrowth… and it is a living part of my body."

The ear looks exactly like an ear, and it’s covered in skin.

He says took ten years to find three plastic surgeons who were willing to take part in the project and get the adequate funding for it.

"And it’s still an ongoing effort because it’s not just a matter of constructing a replica of an ear on his arm, but to internet-enable the ear so people in other places can listen to what the ear is hearing."

But making the ear hear is still in the works.

He says he had previously performed with a mechanical third hand attached to my body, I’ve performed with and extended arm and the ear was an extension of this idea.

"I just wanted to construct a soft prostheses and I wanted something from my body, from my own skin and that’s primarily the reason.

"To explore alternate anatomical architectural features."

Stelarc joins Jesse Mulligan in the Dunedin studio to talk about his exploration of the interfaces between man and machine and between art and science.