ARTICULATED HEAD and EAR ON ARM: Alternate Anatomical Architectures
Submitting InstitutionBrunel University
Unit of AssessmentMusic, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Engineering: Biomedical Engineering
Medical and Health Sciences: Clinical Sciences, Neurosciences
Summary of the impact
ARTICULATED HEAD (2010-) and EAR ON ARM (2006-) reflect
interconnected but different projects within Stelarc's research into
alternate anatomical architectures. The ARTICULATED HEAD is the
robotic embodiment of Stelarc's Prosthetic Head, a conversational agent
that speaks to the person who interrogates it. It was a finalist for the
Australian Engineering Excellence Awards 2010 and was exhibited at
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, for two years from January 2011, attracting an
estimated 1.8 million visitors.
EAR ON ARM is the first instance of an artist having an ear
surgically constructed and cell-grown on his arm and has been disseminated
globally through museum, festival, and media representations. In 2010 EAR
ON ARM was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica.
Within the art and medical communities, both projects have been
acknowledged as pioneering innovations in the conceptualisation and
realisation of biotechnological and engineering-based art and media
attention for the projects has brought the research to a worldwide public.
Stelarc is Professor of Performance Art at Brunel University's School of
Arts. His artistic research explores alternate operational architectures,
either virtual or bodily couplings with machine systems. His projects are
about strategies for generating unexpected capabilities by combining
biology and electronic media and, more generally, about issues of agency,
embodiment and materiality.
ARTICULATED HEAD is part of a wider 'Thinking
Head Project', one of three Thinking Systems Special Initiatives
grants jointly funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the
Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC)
between 2006 and 2011. The ARTICULATED HEAD system consists of an
industrial robot arm (Fanuc LR Mate 200ic) with a 17 inch LCD mounted on
the end effecter. The LCD screen displays a 3D rendering of a head
(Prosthetic Head) that resembles Stelarc. Damith Herath, Christian Kroos
and Zhengzhi Zhang of MARCS Labs, University of Western Sydney, were the
robot and programming team. The system also contains an array of sensors
including auditory localisation, stereo vision and monocular vision that
provide situational awareness for the robotic 'agent'. The complete system
is driven by a novel 'attention model', an algorithmic implementation that
emulates simple brain functions. Articulated Head is no longer a virtual
entity, as was the Prosthetic Head that it was based on but is now an
actual physical presence. The ARTICULATED HEAD is, therefore, a
significant step towards the evaluation of more complex human-robot
interactions and affords a multiplicity of methods to research these
The EAR ON ARM project constitutes a pioneering innovation in the
field of performance art and bio-technology. Instead of applying standard
cosmetic surgery procedures in response to cultural norms of beauty (cf.
ORLAN's Surgery Performances, 1990-93), EAR ON ARM is
concerned with the construction of a functional anatomical structure,
using innovative applications of surgical procedures. Initially visualised
on the side of the artist's head (Extra Ear, 1996), it was not
until 2006 that the first surgical procedures were funded and carried out.
The EAR ON ARM has required 2 surgeries thus far, performed by
Malcom A. Lesavoy (F.A.C.S. Board Certified Plastic & Reconstructive
Surgery, Los Angeles), J. William Futrell (Professor in Plastic Surgery in
Pittsburgh/Chairman and co-founder of The GID Group, Inc), Sean Bidic
(plastic and ear and hand reconstructive surgeon practising in New
Jersey), and Wayne Morrison (senior staff of plastic surgeons at St.
Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne). The research project has also involved
collaboration between Stelarc and Jeremy Taylor (October Films, London).
An extra ear has been constructed on Stelarc's forearm: a left ear on a
left arm. A facial feature has been replicated, relocated and will now be
rewired for alternate capabilities, not only to hear but to transmit.
Excess skin was created with an implanted skin expander in the forearm. By
injecting saline solution into a subcutaneous port, the kidney-shaped
silicone implant stretched the skin, forming a pocket of excess skin that
could be used in surgically constructing the ear. A second surgery
inserted a Medpor scaffold with the skin being suctioned over it. The
Medpor implant is a porous, biocompatible polyethylene material, with pore
sizes ranging from 100-250 micrometers. This can be shaped into several
parts and sutured together to form the ear shape. Because it has a pore
structure that is interconnected and omnidirectional it encourages
fibrovascular ingrowth, becoming integrated with Stelarc's arm at the
inserted site, not allowing any shifting of the scaffold.
The EAR ON ARM remains a work in progress. Further surgical
procedures are needed to lift the helix, creating a conch and growing a
soft ear lobe with the artist's extracted adult stem cells. A small
microphone will then be embedded in the ear which, connected to a wireless
transmitter and server, will internet-enable the ear, allowing people in
other places to listen to what it is hearing. The EAR ON ARM
becomes a kind of internet organ for other bodies in other places to
access and listen through.
References to the research
Peer reviewed Journals
Franco, E. (2011). Stelarc: Arte, Tecnologia, Estética e Ética. Educação
& Linguagem, 13(22), 98-115.
Kroos, K., Herath, D.C., Stelarc (2012). Evoking Agency: Attention Model
and Behavior Control in a Robotic Art Installation. Leonardo, 45(5),
Invited Keynote Speeches (selected)
Stelarc has presented the research in a number of keynote addresses:
2012 BIO ART-KRAKOW THEATRICAL REMINISENSES
Keynote: "Meat, Metal & Code: Engineering Chimeras"
6 October, Museum of Urban Engineering, Krakow, Poland.
2011 VIRTUAL FUTURES 2.0'11
Stelarc: The Body and the Artist
June 2011, University of Warwick
2010 BIOTOPIA: ART IN THE WETZONE
Keynote: "Circulating Flesh"
15 October-Auditorium, Utzon Centre, Aalborg, Denmark.
2010 SEAM 2010: AGENCY & ACTION
Keynote Prosthetic Head: "Split Body, Extruded Self & Circulating
16 October-Seymour Centre, University of Sydney, Australia.
2010 SINGULARITY SUMMIT AU
Keynote: "The Cadaver, The Comatose & The Chimera"
12 September-RMIT Casey Plaza, Bldg. 10, Melbourne, Australia.
2010 DRHA 2010: SENSUAL TECHNOLOGIES
Keynote: "Alternate Anatomical Architectures"
8 September-Lecture Theatre E, Brunel University West London, UK.
2009 TIME TRANSCENDENCE PERFORMANCE
Keynote Presentation: "Excess & Indifference-Alternate Architectures"
1 October-ACMI Auditorium, Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia.
Articulated Head: 3.4M Australian dollars awarded by the
Australian research council for a 5-year research project solely based on
Stelarc's Articulated Head.
Details of the impact
Between 2008 and 2013 EAR ON ARM and ARTICULATED HEAD
have led to the introduction of new approaches to the integration of
biotechnologies and cognitive science in the arts community, the promotion
of a broader acknowledgement of, and engagement with, interdisciplinary
work in the field of science and art by the general public (non-specialist
audiences), and a medical case study in state-of-the-art biotechnologies
offering a point of departure for new developments in Human Computer
The impact of the projects in these areas is reflected in the following
(1) EAR ON ARM was awarded the Golden Nica award in the category
Hybrid Art at the Ars Electronica Festival 2010, one of the most important
prizes for innovation in art and technology.
(2) ARTICULATED HEAD was featured in the Powerhouse Museum in
Sydney, the leading science museum in Australia. The work was selected
from the finalists of the Australian Engineering Award, to be exhibited
for one year, but the duration of the exhibition was extended for another
year due to the work's overwhelming popularity.
(3) In 2009, the French-German culture television channel ARTE produced
and broadcast a documentary about Stelarc's work, discussing the EAR
ON ARM and ARTICULATED HEAD and their innovative
significance in bio-art and engineering. Discovery Channel US has awarded
an £180k production grant to produce a television documentary about EAR
(4) The works' relevance within the arts community is further
corroborated by the fact that curators have selected it for some of the
most important exhibitions in the field of art and technology during the
period 2008-2013: sk-interfaces (FACT Liverpool, 2008, and Casino
Luxemburg, 2010); Stelarc: Les mécaniques du corps (Centre des
Arts Enghien-les-Bains, 2009), EVOLUTION HAUTE COUTURE: ART &
SCIENCE IN THE POST-BIOLOGICAL AGE, National Centre for Contemporary
Arts Moscow (2008); MEDICINE AND ART at the Mori Art Museum,
Tokyo, Japan (2010), ARTISTS BODY at Coreana Art Museum, Seoul,
Korea, and TELL ME TELL ME: AUSTRALIAN AND KOREAN ART 1976-2011 at
the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney and the National Museum of
Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (2011).
(5) Articles about EAR ON ARM and Articulated Head in
prominent art magazines such as Art Monthly Australia (2012) and Circa
The work was brought to the attention of a worldwide general public
through newspaper articles and radio and television features including ABC
National Radio (Australia), WIRED Magazine, The Sun, Guardian,
Daily Telegraph, CNN, Sky News, New York Times, Der Standard
(Austria), and VG (Norway). This wide dissemination has facilitated a
broad discussion about the relationship between art and bio-technology,
contributing to a broader understanding of the concept of art in the
context of technological development. There are numerous examples of
lay-people's responses to the work on internet platforms and web searches
on EAR ON ARM show that the research has been discussed on 24,700
websites (data collected from Google on 7 October 2013).
EAR ON ARM is also considered a pioneering experiment in state of
the art medical procedures. In 2012, the methods used to construct
Stelarc's EXTRA EAR were implemented in largely the same form when
surgeons at Johns Hopkins University Hospital constructed a new ear for
cancer patient Sherrie Walter on her arm. EAR ON ARM was
recognized as a relevant precedent for this medical procedure.
Similarly ARTICULATED HEAD's innovative significance in Human
Computer Interaction was recognised in the Australian Engineering
Excellence Awards 2010 and the work is seen as a model for further
development of interactive technologies in different contexts (e.g.
education, sports, healthcare and communication, etc.).
Sources to corroborate the impact
Statements provided by the following contacts:
- A letter received from an assessor of the Ars Electrononica Jury in
`Hybrid Art' (2007-2012), confirming Stelarc's award — the Golden Nica —
on the basis of his impact on the media art circle and contemporary arts
- A letter received from Principal Curator at Powerhouse Museum,
confirming the exhibition of The Articulated Head; all information
regarding the duration, interests from the visitors and the number of
visitors has been provided by the Museum.
- Surgeon, USA: The contact can corroborate the impact of the project in
the field of medicine, in particular transplant surgery.
Arte (22 May 2009) television: http://www.arte.tv/de/stelarc/2649368,CmC=2648754.html
Art Monthly Australia (April 2012): http://www.artmonthly.org.au/article.asp?contentID=1282
CNN (2011) `Ten Most bizarre tech stories of 2011' (No 1: Stelarc's EAR
New York Times (13 April 2009): http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/14/science/14corp.html?_r=0
Sky News (2009): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyhNGZvNMVY
The Sun (12/01/2011): http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2374755/Third-ear-wows-
Wired (2012): http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/05/stelarc-performance-art/
Circa (2010): http://www.recirca.com/cgi-bin/mysql/show_item.cgi?post_id=5600&type=NewReviews&ps=publish
Other impact indicators:
Ripley's Newsroom, `Strangest stories of 2011 http://www.ripleysnewsroom.com/top11strangestories/
- Footage of a procedure to construct an ear on the forearm of a woman;
reference is made to EAR ON ARM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm0CdUlrnR4
EAR ON ARM is No. 5 in Cracked! `8 Most Horrifying Body
Thingiverse,' Detournement #1 of McKenzie Wark's Guy Debord:
Kac/Stelarc Remix': http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:95311
- The ear project featured in the Canberra Times `Dilbert' cartoon strip
(21 May 2012) and through "Universal Uclick" in numerous other papers: