Greek-Australian performance artist Stelarc, born Stelios Arcadiou in Cyprus, who currently lives in Perth, had a peculiar idea around 20 years ago. He wanted to grow an ear on the side of his face, however, it took him almost a decade to find a medical team willing to perform the surgery and even then they informed him that the ear would be placed on his arm because his original idea was very risky.
The medical team consisted of doctors from across the world. At first they inserted a scaffold underneath Stelarc’s skin and six months later tissue and blood vessels had developed around the structure.
“After about six months the ear literally became part of my arm and it’s grown its own blood supply,” Stelarc said to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The artist plans to add a microphone to the ear that will be wirelessly connected to the internet. He has not planned for an on-off switch as the idea is to keep the ear on 24/7 so that people can hear what the Greek-Australian artist hears through a special website.
“People’s reactions range from bemusement to bewilderment to curiosity, but you don’t really expect people to understand the art component of all this,” Stelarc said.
The doctors’ next step will be to make the ear three-dimensional and grow an earlobe from Stelarc’s stem cells. Then they will insert the microphone, which has already been tested but had to be taken out due to an infection.
“Artists have always been interested in exploring new media, and new technologies provide new possibilities,” he said. “The ear is not for me, it’s for people in other places.”