Artist Moon Ribas translates Earth's movement into art

Spanish Moon Ribas, a dancer and an avant-garde artist, has implants on her feet that allow her to feel vibrations every time there is an earthquake.

Thanks to online seismic sensors implanted in her feet, Spanish artist Moon Ribas can perceive earthquakes through vibrations in real time

Spanish avant-garde artist Moon Ribas can literally feel the earth move under her feet.

Implanted in her body - first in her elbow and now in her feet - are online seismic sensors, which allow her to perceive earthquakes through vibrations in real time. The stronger the quake, the stronger the vibration.

The artist then translates them into sound, in her work Seismic Percussion, or into dance, in Waiting For Earthquakes.

Ribas, 32, tells The Straits Times: "It's an artwork that happens inside the artist, so I'm the only one in the audience, the only one perceiving the earthquakes.

"In order to share my experience, I create external artwork through dance, percussion and sculpture.

"I treat the Earth as the choreographer, composer or sculptor of my pieces and I'm just interpreting what she creates."

In person, there is no obvious sign of her body modification and her most striking physical feature is her head of green hair.

A 3D replica of her arm, which vibrates whenever there is an earthquake, is on display at the ArtScience Museum's Human+: The Future Of Our Species exhibition, which runs till Oct 15.

Ribas was in Singapore in conjunction with a session at advertising festival Spikes Asia for media agency PHD's book, Merge | The Closing Gap Between Technology And Us, which explores a future in which humanity and technology are inextricably linked.

The title is available for purchase from www.amazon.co.uk or via the PHD Media app.

When Ribas was studying experimental dance at Dartington College of Arts in England, she explored the movement of people around her. But she wanted to experience a movement that did not come from humans or objects.

While we usually associate earthquakes with death and destruction, she points out: "The earth is constantly moving and also shakes every day through earthquakes. I was fascinated by this huge and natural movement that is also imperceptible."

Her sensor allows her to feel seismic activity from 1.0 on the Richter Scale and they happen as frequently as five minutes apart.

"I feel like I have two heartbeats, my own and the earth-beat having its own rhythm and tempo."


Artist Moon Ribas has online seismic sensors implanted in her body. PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

She developed the sensor in 2013 and it took her a few months to get used to it.

"In the beginning, I would wake up more often (in the middle of the night) or I would pause in my conversations because I would feel vibrations - Earth kept interrupting my daily life."

For most people, introducing such a device into their body would be an uncomfortably huge step, but Ribas was unfazed by the idea.

She started by wearing the sensor outside before it was implanted in her elbow.

"For me, the important part is not whether it's inside or outside, the body modification; the most fascinating part is the brain modification, it's a new sense and it changes my perception of reality."

I treat the Earth as the choreographer, composer or sculptor of my pieces and I'm just interpreting what she creates.

AVANT-GARDE ARTIST MOON RIBAS, who translates the seismic activity she perceives through the online seismic sensors implanted in her body into sound, in her work Seismic Percussion, or into dance, in Waiting For Earthquakes

She created the Cyborg Foundation in 2010 with Neil Harbisson - who has an antenna implanted in his skull that lets him feel colours - to advocate the movement.

"I think more people are willing to merge with technology in order to have a deeper experience of reality. My personal hope is that this doesn't alienate us from nature or make us think we are superior to any other species.

"I hope that this helps us to be more empathetic towards nature, to know better the planet we live on."

In popular culture, including the acclaimed television thriller drama Orphan Black (2013-2017), tinkering with biology and technology is often depicted as Man playing God, resulting in devastating consequences.

  • BOOK IT / HUMAN+: THE FUTURE OF OUR SPECIES

  • WHERE: ArtScience Museum, 6 Bayfront Avenue

    WHEN: Until Oct 15, 10am to 7pm daily

    ADMISSION: From $9.60 for Singapore residents and from $12 for non-residents, from Marina Bay Sands box offices and www.marinabaysands.com/museum.html

Ribas says: "In the science-fiction world, they portray the union between humans and technology as being very dangerous and pessimistic.

"(But) you can use a mobile phone to call your mother or to detonate a bomb. Humans have the option to make this union a positive one."

•Merge | The Closing Gap Between Technology And Us is available from www.amazon.co.uk and for download via the PHD Media app.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline 'Walking earthquake detector'. Print Edition | Subscribe