Third ear? All the better to push art with

Stelarc's extra ear was constructed and implanted in 2006 using a kidney-shaped silicone implant and tissues from himself.
Stelarc's extra ear was constructed and implanted in 2006 using a kidney-shaped silicone implant and tissues from himself.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

New ArtScience Museum exhibition features human enhancement artist's performances

From swallowing sculptures to suspending himself in mid-air with hooks, there are few extremes to which 71-year-old Stelarc has not gone. Yet, nothing compares to the third "ear" he has implanted on the inside of his left forearm.

The Cyprus-born, Australia-based performance artist was in Singapore yesterday, speaking at the launch of the ArtScience Museum's new exhibition, HUMAN+: The Future Of Our Species.

The exhibition imagines what humanity will look and feel like a hundred years from now, as technological modifications to our bodies steadily accelerate.

Stelarc's extra ear was constructed and implanted in 2006 using a kidney-shaped silicone implant and tissues from himself.

The ear does not hear, but one day it could transmit - Stelarc intends to embed a microphone with a Wi-Fi link into his implant, allowing anyone to "hear" through his extra ear at any given time.

Having the implant done came at a cost. He almost lost the arm due to complications from the surgery, and he has had a partner leave him due to that extra ear.

But to Stelarc, pushing the boundaries of what is physically and technologically possible through his art has always been his central occupation. "The body is very vulnerable and inadequate; we must consider the possibility of redesigning it." he said.

Stelarc, who goes by one name, was one of several well-known personalities in the field of human enhancement who were in Singapore for the launch of the exhibition.

Among them was also Neil Harbisson, the world's first legally recognised cyborg who has an implanted antenna to "hear" colours since he cannot see them.

The exhibition will feature three videos of Stelarc's previous performances, including StickMan, a piece where he was strapped to a robotic exoskeleton that choreographed his actions. It will also feature other ground-breaking work such as Nadine, a hyper-realistic social humanoid robot that was made in Singapore.

Although Stelarc has always had plenty of ideas for his body in life, he is still mulling over what will happen to it when he dies.

"There's a company in the United States that can take all the carbon out of your body and compress it into a diamond that your loved one can wear. Or you could plasticise your body and turn it into a sculpture. I haven't decided yet."

The exhibition will run till Oct 15 and costs $13.60 for adult Singapore residents and $9.60 for children and senior citizens.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'Third ear? All the better to push art with'. Print Edition | Subscribe