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Extra Ear ¼ Scale

The Tissue Culture & Art in Collaboration with Stelarc

The Tissue Culture & Art Project explores the use of tissue technologies as a medium for artistic expression. The artists use tissue engineering techniques for the creation of Semi-Living entities. These are parts of complex organisms which are sustained alive, proliferate outside the body and are coerced to grow in predetermined shapes. These evocative objects are a tangible example of a new kind of object-being. TC&A are interested in the new discourses that surround issues of partial life.

In this collaboration a quarter-scale replica of Stelarc's ear is grown using human cells. The ear is cultured in a rotating micro-gravity bioreactor which allows the cells to grow in three dimensions. Stelarc's recent projects and performances are concerned with the prosthetic. The prosthesis is seen not as a sign of lack, but as a symptom of excess. Rather than replacing a missing or malfunctioning part of the body, these artifacts are alternate additions to the body's form and function.

Extra Ear 1/4 Scale is about two collaborative concerns. The project represents a recognisable human part. However, it is being presented as partial life and brings into question the notions of the wholeness of the body. It is also confronts broader cultural perceptions of 'life' given our increasing ability to manipulate living systems. TC&A are dealing with the ethical and perceptual issues stemming from the realization that living tissue can be sustained, grown, and is able to function outside the body. Stelarc, ultimately, is concerned with the attachment of the ear to the body as a soft prosthesis. Extra Ear 1/4 Scale is partial life form partly constructed and partly grown waiting to become a soft prosthesis.

Acknowledgments:

  • TC&A was hosted by SymbioticA: the Art & Science Collaborative Research Laboratory, School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia.
  • Extra Ear 1/4 Scale was grown with the assistance and expert advice of Verigen Australia and the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of Western Australia.
  • The artists and exhibit organisers appreciate the assistance of World Courier for provision of specialised biological transport services. Special thanks to Simon Kelleher.
  • The Extra Ear project was initiated during Stelarc's residency at the Art Department, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, in 1997. Advice was sought from the School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, especially from Dr. Stuart Bunt.
  • Semi-Living Ear was transported by World Courier (Australia) Pty Ltd.