Some artists and designers are fascinated by the human body and the potential that it has. This fascination leads to a series of interesting but intense projects. I would like to discuss three of those projects: ‘Transfigurations’ by Agatha Haines, ‘The reincarnations of saint Orlan’ by the artist Orlan and ‘ear on arm’ by Stelarc. These three people show that there are a lot more possibilities concerning the humanbody than most of us could ever think of.
With the project ‘transfigurations’ Agatha Haines is designing features that can be surgically applied to young children or babies to improve their chances in the future. These new features could solve medical, environmental or social mobility problems. She designed models of babies with different body modifications to give an idea what the enhancements would look like and explain how that would improve the health of the children.
Thermal Epidermiplasty: The extended skin on the head causes the child to have more veins that are close to the skin, which helps with fast heat disposure. This way it is easier for the child to live in a warmer climate, with an eye on global warming.
Extension Osteogenesis: With this baby the nose is altered to have the shape of the face more round and aerodynamic. This will for example make the kid better at sports because of the aerodynamics.
Bibucculplasty: an extension of the cheeks. The extended cheeks of this baby will increase the absorption of food, caffeine and medication. The fast consumption of caffeine can be useful when the child will grow up to have a high stress career or intense studies.
Podiaectomy: By removing one of the central Phalanx bones (which are in the fingers and toes) it is possible to prevent a high incidence of asthma. The soft fleshy part of the skin will be exposed so potentially a hookworm can be contracted, a parasite which is known for the reduction of allergic responses.
Epidermal Mystomy: an extension of thin muscle and skin behind the ear can create a new orifice. If a baby has a disease or disorder for which a lot of medication (in form of tablets, pills or drugs) has to be taken on a regular basis, this new opening would be a slow absorbing and low fat area, which would benefit the taking of medication.
The reincarnation of saint Orlan
Orlan is an artist who is modifying her own body through plastic surgery. Not for the sake of evolution but to see how far we can go in changing our appearance. She took a camera crew into the surgery room, made a performance out of her surgeries and called the series: “The reincarnation of saint Orlan”.
She transformed her own body b1111ased on beauty ideals from classical western art pieces. She was very interested in the concept of reincarnation and saw every time that she came out of a surgery with a ‘new’ body as a reincarnation of herself. The surgeries were cosmetic and in comparison to Agatha Haines had no further use. She had several facial reconstructions, a breast lift and a liposuction surgery that were part of the series. Especially the facial reconstructions are very bizarre. She reconstructed her chin to look like the chin from Botticelli’s Venus, her nose to look like Jean-Léon Gerome’s Psyche, her lips resemble those of Boucher’s Europe, her eyes to look like Diana’s and her forehead like the Mona Lisa’s. The figures that she based her plastic surgeries on are all picked because of their background stories. During the surgeries, everything would be filmed, Orlan herself was awake during the surgery, she would be wearing costumes and read (spiritual) texts.
Ear on arm
Stelarc is an artist who is also experimenting with the endless possibilities that the human body has to offer. Most of the time he uses bionic pieces to extend the body. For the project ‘ear on arm’ he gave himself a third ear on his left lower arm.
Stelarc experimented with making ears before in with his project ‘¼ scale ear’. The first idea was to have the extra ear next to the original ear on his head, with the project/concept ‘extra ear’, but the doctor thougt it was to dangerous and the lower arm would be a good place because the skin is smooth and soft here and there is less chance of bumping into or knocking stuff. The ear structure is made of biocompatible polyethylene material, which causes it to get integrated with Stelarcs own skin and so it will be an actual part of him. Stelarc is really ambitious and not done with the ear yet, the next step will be a microphone so he can actually hear with it. The little speaker would be placed in his mouth so if someone talks into the new ear he is the only one who can hear it as long as his mouth is closed, if he opens his mouth the voice of the person who is talking into the ear will be coming from his mouth. But that’s not all, he want to take it even further and have it connected to the internet so everyone would be able to listen along.
These projects push the limitations of the humanbody and expand it to show more and new possibilities. I personally admire their courage and hope they will have more room to develop their idea’s.