Stelarc, the Perth, Australia-based artist and Curtin University professor, is currently growing an ear on his arm in a strange art-meets-science experiment that is nearly 20 years in the making. Next, he plans to connect the implanted ear to the internet so it can function as a remote listening device and people can listen to and track his every move, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Stelarc first dreamed up the project in 1996, but it was more than 10 years before he could put together a medical team with the skill and, perhaps more importantly, the will to be involved. According to the artist, however, he is not doing this for himself, but for others.
“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.”
The artist’s current dream team of doctors is comprised of experts from around the world, who have surgically constructed a full-sized ear on his left forearm from a biopolymer scaffold that was inserted under the skin. The structure began to develop tissue and blood vessels within six months of the procedure and Stelarc hopes the ear will eventually be able to transmit sounds non-stop via WiFi, he told Channel Nine’s Today Show in a live interview.
Stelarc announced that the latest effort to complete this vision (several earlier attempts to install a microchip on the arm-ear were reportedly unsuccessful), the next step involves an attempt to use his own stem cells in order to make the ear begin growing on his arm in a more three-dimensional way. Specifically, the team plans to “elevate the helix of the ear” so they can “grow a soft earlobe” using Stelarc’s own adult stem cells. This is where a miniature microphone will be inserted, which can then be wirelessly connected to the internet.
When asked to explain why he is going through so much to complete the peculiar project, Stelarc said he was inspired by the increasingly pervading presence of technology and its effect on everyday life.
“Increasingly now, people are becoming Internet portals of experience… Imagine if I could hear with the ears of someone in New York, imagine if I at the same time could see with the eyes of someone in London.”
Oddly, Stelarc and his team aren’t the only ones who have been busy growing an ear where it otherwise would never be. Namely, a group of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who built an artificial human ear in 2013 by combining living tissues from cows and sheep, then growing them around a flexible wire ear-shaped frame, the Independent reported.
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]