Stelarc's third ear. Photo: Stelarc.
Source: Arnet News
In the annals of strange things done in the name of art, Australian performance artist Stelarc is quickly making a name for himself.
Stelarc, a professor at Curtin University in Perth, was first inspired to grow a third ear in 1996, about a year after the technology to do so was first developed by Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Charles Vacanti of Harvard University. The pair incubated the world's first artificial ear on the back of a mouse.
It took ten years for Stelarc to raise the necessary funds for an extra ear of his own, and to track down a team of plastic surgeons willing to perform the unorthodox procedure.
"You don't really expect people to understand the art component of all of this," Stelarc told ABC. "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."
At this point, the ear is a permanent fixture on Stelarc's arm, having integrated the biocompatible frame surgeons inserted under the skin into its own tissue and blood supply within six months. Next, the artist hopes to raise the organ further off his arm by growing an ear lobe from his stem cells.
The final step would be to insert a wireless microphone that will let interested parties around the world tune into Stelarc's days, eavesdropping at any and all times—privacy be damned.
"If I'm not in a wi-fi hotspot or I switch off my home modem, then perhaps I'll be offline, but the idea actually is to try to keep the ear online all the time," Stelarc explained.
He's already tested out a microphone, but developed an infection that ended an otherwise successful trial.