Artists lends extra ear to body art criticism

Artists lends extra ear to body art criticism

Stelarc, the man with a third ear on his forearm, doesn't like 'why' questions.

But it's a question you get a lot when a perfectly-formed ear is growing where it shouldn't be. It can't hear a thing, but in time the entire world will be able to listen in through a wifi-enabled microphone inserted into the skin.

The 70-year-old performance artist is fascinated by what he describes as "obsolete body". The ear is an attempt to toy with "alternate anatomical architecture".

"We've evolved as a biological body with two arms and two legs, two ears, this explores the possibility in the future that perhaps we want to redesign the human body," he says.

"This body is a highly inadequate body, the idea of redesigning the human body to be more robust and to perform better in technological terrain we now inhabit is an important consideration."

The Perth-based artist spent 10 years trying to find three surgeons happy to inset a scaffold beneath the skin on his forearm in a way that encourages real cells to grow. The project started in 2006 and has another 10 years to go, with the next step to push out the helix and grow a soft ear lobe.

"This ear now is integrated, it has tissue ingrowth and vascularisation, it's a living part and an integrated part of my body now," he says.

"The idea is to internet enable the ear, so in any Wi-Fi hotspot, anyone anywhere can listen in."

Born in Cyprus and raised in Melbourne, Stelarc has been shocking people for decades with technology-focused performance art.

He rose to fame for a series of gruesome 'suspensions' in the 1980 and 1990s, impaling his skin with meat hooks and hanging naked in front an audience. Other works featured cyborg-inspired prosthetic arms, robots and exoskeletons.

He is currently in Dunedin for a debate on DNA held at the International Science Festival.