I was sitting in GV Art Gallery, London last week when this sweet-looking older man walked in. The gallery director introduced him as Stelarc and urged him to show us his art. Stelarc humbly agreed and proceeded to tell us who he was while he started to remove his coat. As he slipped his left arm out, he lifted up his forearm and revealed to us his third ear. My jaw dropped.
Stelarc is a legendary Australian performance artist who has, for over four decades, used his body as his art medium, using everything from robotic third arms to full body hook suspensions. His Ear on Arm project began in 2006 by using a skin expander to create excess skin on his left forearm. A biocompatible scaffold was then surgically inserted into his left forearm and the skin suctioned around it to create the shape of the ear. After all of these years he’s still perfecting the shape using stem cells and surgery to make the ear more prominent. Eventually Stelarc wants to insert a Wi-Fi enabled microphone in the ear of which he says, “if you’re in San Francisco and I’m in London, you’ll be able to listen in to what my ear is hearing, wherever you are and wherever I am.”
Stelarc put his coat back on. It was his birthday and he was off to dinner with the gallery. I was left thinking, “did that really just happen?”
View more of Stelarc’s work via stelarc.org. Read more about him in a recent WIRED article.