In the annals of strange things done in the name of art, Australian performance artist Stelarc is quickly making a name for himself.
Stelarc, a professor at Curtin University in Perth, was first inspired to grow a third ear in 1996, about a year after the technology to do so was first developed by Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Charles Vacanti of Harvard University. The pair incubated the world’s first artificial ear on the back of a mouse.
It took ten years for Stelarc to raise the necessary funds for an extra ear of his own, and to track down a team of plastic surgeons willing to perform the unorthodox procedure.
“You don’t really expect people to understand the art component of all of this,” Stelarc told ABC. “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.”
At this point, the ear is a permanent fixture on Stelarc’s arm, having integrated the biocompatible frame surgeons inserted under the skin into its own tissue and blood supply within six months. Next, the artist hopes to raise the organ further off his arm by growing an ear lobe from his stem cells.
The final step would be to insert a wireless microphone that will let interested parties around the world tune into Stelarc’s days, eavesdropping at any and all times—privacy be damned.
“If I’m not in a wi-fi hotspot or I switch off my home modem, then perhaps I’ll be offline, but the idea actually is to try to keep the ear online all the time,” Stelarc explained.
He’s already tested out a microphone, but developed an infection that ended an otherwise successful trial.
Other artists have explored technologically-minded surgical modifications to their body, such as Wafaa Bilal, whose body rejected a camera implanted in the back of his head, and Neil Harbisson, a cyborg activist who drilled an antenna into his skull in 2004. Harbisson’s antenna allows him to receive phone calls and connect to the Internet, and translates colors, some beamed down via satellite signal, into sound.
Stelarc has explored cyborgization before, performing with a mechanical third hand, and placing cameras in his lungs, colon, and stomach.
“I am particularly interested in that idea of the post-human, that idea of the cyborg,” Stelarc told CNN. “What it means to be human will not be determined any longer merely by your biological structure but perhaps also determined largely by all of the technology that’s plugged or inserted into you.””
Italian artist Vincenzo Aiello is celebrating the foreskin—and protesting male circumcision with the aid of a Kickstarter campaign.
His project, titled “HUFO: The Missing Piece” (shorthand for “HUman FOreskin”) is dedicated to raising awareness about circumcision and the negative impact that circumcision can have on a man’s emotional health and sex life.
Aiello creates hyperrealistic foreskin sculptures using silicon resin and is selling them, displayed in frames inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, for $1,000 a pop as part of an “intactivist” Kickstarter campaign. This campaign could be the perfect bookend for the successful campaign to build a massive vagina sculpture in Texas (see Help Kickstarter Artist Build Six-Foot Vagina For Texas Women).
Smaller pledges will earn you a print or T-shirt showing the piece, which Aiello created after carefully studying circumcision surgeries to determine how the foreskin, dubbed “America’s censored body part,” is removed. For $10,000, the artist will build one of his signature mosaics in which the sculpture will be displayed.
The HUFO projects questions whether it’s “ethical for parents to remove functional tissue from their children’s bodies to conform to social or cultural norms,” and compares the American propensity for male circumcision to widely decried African traditions of female circumcision. Aiello claims that the foreskin is important erogenous tissue, and that the surgery to remove it is painful and potentially traumatizing to infants.
“Circumcision has become so commonplace in the US that parents often forget that circumcision is a surgery,” Aiello states on the Kickstarter page. “Every other surgery in Western medicine requires both compelling and urgent medical reasons to perform without consent.”
Aiello, who was circumcised as an adult for undisclosed medical reasons, has also founded a research company called Foregen, dedicated to developing medical techniques that will successfully regenerate the foreskin.
With 42 days remaining, HUFO has already raised nearly $13,000 towards its $40,000 goal.