The hills are alive with the sound of the Oomphalapompatronium ♪♬♫

More marvellous musical contraptions.

Len Solomon and his amazing DIY musical contraptionsThe Kid Should See This
Making instruments can be as simple as adding different amounts of water to a row of bottles or as elaborate as creating your own pipe organ-style instruments from any object that suits a musical vision. That’s what Len Solomon does. For over 30 years, he’s invented instruments by “filing and sawing” parts like “old vacuum cleaner tubes and plastic bottles, hardware supplies like PVC pipes and copper tees, and specialty items he makes himself like rubber squeeze balls and fipples.”

 

How this guy makes amazing DIY musical contraptions – YouTube

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Valentines cards, but with added acetic acid

Happy Valentine’s Day! Did you get any cards this year? Let’s hope you didn’t receive one of these.

The rude, cruel, and insulting ‘Vinegar Valentines’ of the Victorian eraAtlas Obscura
In the 1840s, hopeful American and British lovers sent lacy valentines with cursive flourishes and lofty poems by the thousands. But what to do if you didn’t love the person who had set their eyes on you?

In the Victorian era, there was no better way to let someone know they were unwanted than with the ultimate insult: the vinegar valentine. Also called “comic valentines,” these unwelcome notes were sometimes crass and always a bit emotionally damaging in the anti-spirit of Valentine’s Day.

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OK, so let’s assume your Valentine shares your feelings and agrees to go on a date. What could possibly go wrong?

Stupid Cupid: Valentine’s Day disasters, as seen by waitersThe Guardian
While some of us make too much effort on Valentine’s Day, others haven’t even mastered the first rule of dating: don’t perv on someone who is not your partner. Stephenson-Roberts observes that “wandering eyes” are a common feature of the evening. Digital flirting isn’t unheard of, either. Peppe Corallo, bar manager at London’s Kitchen at Holmes, remembers one woman who suddenly started screaming at her boyfriend during dinner. Why? He had been checking Tinder at the table. She hurled her champagne in his face before storming out. Unsurprisingly, her sodden lover soon paid up and left too. “I felt bad for him in some ways, but at the same time, don’t put your phone on the table where your girlfriend can see,” Corallo advises.

For your shelf of earthly delights

I don’t know about you, but I’m very tempted.

Collectable Hieronymus Bosch figurinesDangerous Minds
I’m not a big knickknack person. I like to keep my home sparse in the “tiny objects” departament. But I must admit I really do dig these Hieronymus Bosch figurines. They’re kinda cool-looking in their own obviously weird way. I especially like the ones from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

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Those not familiar with this strange Dutch painter from the 1400s should start here.

Hieronymus Bosch review – a heavenly host of delights on the road to hellThe Guardian
The public face of Bosch, walking the streets of this little city, was that of a good townsman and Catholic. His private thoughts emerge in the most unexpected and miraculous of all the treasures assembled – his drawings. … They show us the secret Bosch, a man with a mind full of monsters. One drawing is called The Wood Has Ears, The Field Has Eyes – a saying inscribed as on Goya’s Caprichos. Human ears hang from the trees. Human eyes stare out of the ground. It is like a Magritte. Only much scarier.

And for a spectacular, in-depth look at his most famous painting, check out this interactive, incredibly detailed version from the team behind the documentary Hieronymus Bosch, Touched by the Devil.

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Extraordinary interactive hi-res exhibit of Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’Colossal
Teaching art history online can be tough, despite a wealth of tools and technologies it’s difficult to create an environment that compares to a great teacher who can make artworks engaging to a live audience. However, this new interactive exhibit of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous Garden of Earthly Delights completely nails it. This is the internet we were promised.

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Photography pioneer with a modern eye

Let’s take a step back from that self-congratulatory, sycophantic ceremony, and look at the cinematic imagery of Heinrich Kühn, regarded as one of the forefathers of fine art photography.

The astonishing cinematic autochrome photography of Heinrich KühnFlashbak
As cameras slowly changed during the 1890s, becoming lighter, more manoeuvrable, there grew a desire among photographs to create more artistic images. pictures that rivalled painting for their impressionistic beauty. One pioneer of this trend was Heinrich Kühn, a German-born amateur photographer. […]

From 1890 onwards, Kühn started working on creating his “total art” photographs. His pictures were described as “painterly” and “impressionistic” but to our modern eye look more like movie stills from some great, unreleased film.

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And talking of cinematic, here’s a fresh look at what would have been 1896’s nominee for best picture.

Neural networks upscale film from 1896 to 4K, make it look like it was shot on a modern smartphoneGizmodo
L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat doesn’t have the same effect on modern audiences, but Denis Shiryaev wondered if it could be made more compelling by using neural network powered algorithms (including Topaz Labs’ Gigapixel AI and DAIN) to not only upscale the footage to 4K, but also increase the frame rate to 60 frames per second. You might yell at your parents for using the motion smoothing setting on their fancy new TV, but here the increased frame rate has a dramatic effect on drawing you into the action.

[4k, 60 fps] Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1896)YouTube

What would Louis Lumière have made of that, I wonder. As a reminder, here’s his original. The place looks a little different now. I wonder if they do requests to update other old film.

But where did he get all the phones from?

In a different take on interactive art, here’s a story of the little guy getting one over on a multinational conglomerate—by making his own traffic jam.

Google Maps hackSimon Weckert
99 second hand smartphones are transported in a handcart to generate virtual traffic jam in Google Maps. Through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red which has an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route to avoid being stuck in traffic.

Google Maps Hacks by Simon WeckertYouTube

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It’s certainly been getting plenty of attention. I wonder if others will be giving it a go.

Man creates fake traffic jam on Google Maps by carting around 99 cellphonesBoing Boing
Simon Weckert loaded a hand-cart with cellphones and pulled them slowly through Berlin. This fooled Google Maps into registering severe congestion, marking the streets bright red in the service, and rerouting traffic to avoid the area.

Hacking Google, a red handcart for red roads Traffic Google MapsKottke
You’ve got to love little artistic hacks like this. Simon Weckert put 99 second-hand smartphones in a red handcart and walked around a few blocks in Berlin. Each phone was running Google Maps and being tracked for trafic measurements. Their presence and slow rolling around the streets caused Google to display a traffic jam.

An artist used 99 phones to fake a Google Maps traffic jamWired
“What I’m really interested in generally is the connection between technology and society and the impact of technology, how it shapes us,” Weckert says. He cites philosopher Marshall McLuhan: We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us. “I have the feeling right now that technology is not adapting to us, it’s the other way around.”

Traffic jams in Google Maps could be spoofed with 99 phones and a little red wagonThe Verge
Google jokingly told The Verge that it hasn’t “quite cracked” how to correctly track traffic data that comes from toy wagons, but that it can already distinguish between Google Maps data coming from cars and motorcycles in several countries.

Berlin artist uses 99 phones to trick Google into traffic jam alertThe Guardian
The work, revealed just a few days before the 15th anniversary of Google Maps’ founding, is just the latest example of a prankster taking advantage of the “crowdsourced” nature of much of Google’s data collection. In 2015, the company had to shut off one feature, Map Maker, after a series of embarrassing vandalism incidents culminated in the creation of a virtual park, the shape of which appeared to resemble the company’s Android logo urinating on Apple’s trademark.

Tasty type

You don’t normally associate McDonald’s with minimalism, but these new billboard ads are pretty cut back, to say the least. No photos, no logos, no branding.

These ads make you think of McDonald’s with just 5 words and 5 coloursDigital Arts
The messaging is equally simple. It isn’t introducing ‘healthy’ options, a new burger, offer or competition – or putting the idea of McDonalds as comfort food in your mind. It’s just designed to catch your eye, bring a moment of delight at the recognition of what you’re seeing and make you think of picking up a McDonalds on the way home or stopping during a long journey.

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I admit I find these ads quite appealing. The product, not so much.

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Art worth the money

Toying around with Sedition is all well and good, but what if you’ve got some serious cash to spend on art?

Dalí and Gala with their ‘heads full of clouds’ go up for sale at BonhamsThe Art Newspaper
An Elysian diptych Salvador Dalí painted of himself and his wife Gala with their “heads full of clouds” is set to lead Bonhams’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale in London on 26 March. Dalí made the oil-on-wood-panel painting Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages (1937) (est £7m-£10m) at the height of his Surrealist period, when the Spanish Civil War drove the artist to produce several pieces considered to be masterworks for their mesmeric portrayals of the unconscious mind and Freudian paradigms.

Alternatively, here’s something a little approachable, relatable, inspirational, hopeful, meaningful.

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Prospect Cottage needs you nowArt Fund
On the windswept shore of Dungeness, visionary British filmmaker, artist and activist Derek Jarman transformed a Victorian fisherman’s hut into a sanctuary of art and imagination. Prospect Cottage and its iconic garden stand testament to his defiant spirit, and have the potential to inspire artists and visitors long into the future. But they are at risk. Help us raise £3.5 million to #SaveProspectCottage, and secure its future as a centre of creative activity – for everyone.

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‘A toolbox for his work’: fundraiser launched to save Derek Jarman’s home – The Guardian
Deller said the cottage gave a great insight in to what Jarman was like as an artist. “The word unique is overused, but this really is a unique environment, it’s a unique building. Within it you can see his thought processes, you can see his work and it is all in such incredible condition … he deserves to have this kept as it was.”

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I remember being quite moved by Blue when it came out in the 90s. I still have the book that went with it, I think, somewhere. I really hope this fundraising project is successful, he was quite a creative force.

Real life Rothko

We’ve seen Rothkos on iPhones before, but how about some from the algae covered marshes of the south of France?

Defying vertigo to capture aerials from an ultralight planeWired
From above, Chesnel discovered, the seaside landscapes of southern France look like abstract paintings, with vibrant bands of color bleeding into each other. They reminded her of canvases by the mid-century American artist Mark Rothko. Some marshes were pink or orange, thanks to the proliferation of an algae called Dunaliella salina. Depending on their levels of salinization and types of algae, other marshes were green, golden yellow, or brown. “I like pushing the boundary between paintings and photographs,” says Chesnel, who trained as a painter and only recently transitioned into photography. […]

Chesnel hopes that viewers of the images will be temporarily lifted out of their everyday concerns and given a fresh outlook on the world. … “From the ground you may see something that doesn’t look glamorous at all, but from above it becomes beautiful,” she says.

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Just as mad as those in China.

Lorem ipsum, but for images

I wish I had more of a use for this, it’s a cool little resource from Stefan Bohacek.

Generative placeholders
Use generative art as your image placeholders.

There are lots of different styles to choose from.

Keep hitting ‘refresh’ to generate new versions. And in case you were wondering, this is what lorem ipsum means. Possibly.

Lorem ipsum translated: it remains Greek to meThe Guardian
The apparently random Latin placeholder text, used to help design pages, has been translated. Despite the absence of meaning, it’s weirdly mesmerising.

A new family of brass instruments

I have the pleasure (?) of living in a household with a number of brass instruments, but I’ve never seen anything like these.

Brass horns mounted in interactive sculptures by Steve Parker emit sound by touchColossal
Artist and musician Steve Parker’s latest interactive projects invite viewers to feel the music⁠—literally. Activated by touch, “Ghost Box” plays randomized audio segments on a loop, including the ticks of Morse Code, the chorus of spirituals, and the blows of the shofar and Iron Age Celtic carnyx. Each time someone makes contact with a part of the wall sculpture, a new noise emits. Inspired by WWII era short wave radio, the mounted piece is constructed from a mix of salvaged brass, tactical maps, paper musical scores, wires, map pins, electronics, audio components, and an instrument case. The name even references the paranormal tool sometimes employed when people try to communicate with those who have died.

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Ghost BoxVimeo

And whilst these may look loud, they’re actually listening devices that remind me of those concrete sound mirrors.

TubascopesSteve Parker
The Tubascope is a sculpture that works likes a telescope for your ears. Modeled after obsolete WWII acoustic locators, the Tubascope is made from reclaimed and repurposed brass instruments that have been augmented with tubing and headphones. When used, the Tubascope helps a person focus their listening on specific, far away sounds that may have been otherwise unnoticed.

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TubascopesVimeo

Now, these mad trombone and trumpet shapes really reminded me of paintings I first came across at university (25 years ago now? goodness me), but I couldn’t for the life of me remember who they were by—murals, I think, in collaboration with school children, somehow. And for all I moan on about Google, it did come to the rescue with such vague search terms as painting, trumpets, children, mural.

Tim Rollins & K.O.S.Institute for Research in Art
The history of Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) is a story of art and education triumphing over the hardships of life. It is a story which might have been torn from the pages of great literature. In fact, the group uses pages cut from classical literature as the groundwork for many of their paintings and as the source of imagery for their works.

Yes, that’s the one! He was a teacher in the 80s working with under-privileged kids to create art that would “transport his students from the tough streets of New York to the inner sanctums of major museums as celebrated artists”.

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But alas.

Tim Rollins, artist and activist whose work thrived on collaboration, dies at 62ARTnews
Tim Rollins, whose work bridged the gap between activism and art, bringing together strands of literature and art history, painting, Minimalism, conceptual art, and social justice, has died of natural causes, according to the Maureen Paley gallery, which showed him in London, and Lehmann Maupin, which showed him in New York and Hong Kong. He was 62.

Far too young.

A secret photographer #2

The enigmatic Vivian Maier may be the most street photographer to hide her work from the world, and a while ago I shared an article about Masha Ivashintsova, a Russian equivalent. Here’s another, though Saul Leiter might be a little different; he was still around to see his work finally recognised.

Why Saul Leiter kept his colorful street photography secret for decadesArtsy
Yet except for his inner circle, no one saw Leiter’s personal color work until toward the end of his life. He adopted the nascent medium in the 1940s, when it was relegated to splashy advertisements and amateur shooters, not fine artists. Walker Evans called color photography “vulgar,” and his contemporaries like Robert Frank and Ansel Adams agreed. When William Eggleston, Helen Levitt, and Stephen Shore ushered in the era of color in the 1970s, Leiter, a private man who never sought fame, was barely a footnote. He had made a living shooting fashion during the heyday of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, but by the ’80s, he was deep in debt and nearly forgotten.

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Leiter wasn’t interested in the human condition, like Frank or Diane Arbus; instead he understood the simple poetry of a stranger’s silhouette, or raindrops on a window pane. “I may be old-fashioned, but I believe there is such a thing as a search for beauty—a delight in the nice things in the world. And I don’t think one should have to apologize for it.”

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An unsettling self-portrait

Another reminder of what Van Gogh went through.

Not a fake: Van Gogh self-portrait is his only work painted while suffering psychosis, experts sayThe Art Newspaper
Van Tilborgh believes that the self-portrait was painted in late August 1889, in the asylum just outside Saint-Rémy: “The somewhat unusual type of canvas, the pigments, the sombre palette and the brushwork are all in keeping with his output in the late summer and autumn of that year.”

The painting is now linked to a letter in which Van Gogh wrote that he had made a self-portrait which was “an attempt from when I was ill”. The artist had suffered a severe mental attack at the asylum in mid July 1889, when he tried to swallow paints, but by 22 August he had recovered sufficiently to write to his brother Theo, asking that he be allowed access to his painting materials. Van Tilborgh argues that the artist made the self-portrait a few days later, before he suffered a minor setback and was ill for a short period at the beginning of September.

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It’s an arresting image, though I think the version of it that appears in this article, being somewhat darker, feels much deeper.

Leading you through the street art of London

There’s more to street art than Banksy, of course, especially in London. You’d be forgiven for thinking the place was one giant, open air art gallery, going by the number of locations highlighted in this tour of street art hotspots: Brixton, Camden, Dulwich, Hackney, Shoreditch, Walthamstow… (Via London Life With Liz)

10 best places to see street art in LondonDutch Girl in London
Is street art in London legal?’ people often ask me on my history & street art tours in East London. Technically, street art in London is very much illegal. However, having become one of the world’s leading cities to feature such high-quality urban artworks, some local authorities condone it. You won’t be able to find street art in all London neighbourhoods so to help you, I’ve compiled a guide with the best places to see street art in London.

So many wonderful paintings here. I love the contrast between the traditional murals…

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… the photorealistic portraits…

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… and the punchy, graphic work from Stik.

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Fangs out after dark

Seeming to lift a page from Kumi Yamashita’s sketchbook, the BBC have brought Dracula to life in this spooky 3D poster for their gripping new series.

BBC’s ‘Dracula’ gets push with clever marketing campaignMy Modern Met
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a well-known tale, which is why ad executives in the UK needed to get creative when coming up with a campaign for the BBC’s new series. Dracula premiered on New Year’s Day and in the lead-up to the event, BBC Creative dreamed up an eye-catching billboard that gets spookier as the sun goes down.

Just as vampires only appear at night, there’s no trace of Dracula as the sun shines. Instead, once night falls, his sinister shadow emerges across the billboard. Mouth open wide and fangs out, there’s no mistaking the silhouette of the show’s lead character.

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The executives at BBC Creative were looking for a fresh take on the classic tale as a way to get viewers engaged in the new series. Located in Birmingham and London, the two billboards are an exciting, out-of-the-box vision that pairs well with the series’ dark humor.

A clever poster for a clever, gripping, rejuvenated series. With this and A Christmas Carol, the BBC really raised the bar this Christmas. (Via Colossal)

Sledging with Beethoven

Understanding music can be a challenge to those of us who have difficulty reading a score. Thankfully, there are ways to visualise what’s going on.

Some are helpfully straightforward, some are quite complex yet followable and others are more abstract and hypnotic, but I especially love this one, via Jeremy. As he says, “Have a look, but be warned once you’ve started you’ll be there to the end!”

Line Riders – Beethoven’s 5thYouTube

Check out the rest of DoodleChaos‘s YouTube channel for more clever animations. Can you imagine how long he spent rehearsing for this synchronised screen juggling, for instance.

Claiming colour

Whilst colours can be strange sometimes, they all have names, right?  From red, green and blue to maroon, mint and midnight. The designers at the paint shop Farrow & Ball come up with some great names: mouse’s back, skimming stone, elephant’s breath. Now you can get in on the act and name your very own colour.

Kolormark – The world’s leading color naming platform
The Kolormark project aims to name all the colors in the world. There are 16,777,216 colors, but only a handful have a name. We believe that every color has its own unique personality and deserves an original name.

This platform is designed for people and colors. We want to allow people to leave a colorful legacy by taking part in the Kolormark project. Participating in the project means more than naming a color. It’s giving a color a loving home.

Sounds a little scammy, though I’m sure it’s legit. It reminds me a little of that million dollar homepage selling off its pixels. Or naming and claiming your very own star. There isn’t a real, physical product for sale, and you don’t really get anything concrete or tangible for your money.

So of course I had to buy one.

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If you’re struggling for inspiration, they have an AI colour matchmaker (because of course they do), “powered by a proprietary set of algorithms fine-tuned to match you with that perfect hue.”

Red and black have already been taken, unfortunately.

Why red means red in almost every languageNautilus
The results revealed two remarkable patterns, which Kay and Berlin laid out in their 1969 monograph, Basic Color Terms. First, almost all of the languages they examined appeared to have color words that drew from the same 11 basic categories: white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, and gray. Second, cultures seemed to build up their color vocabularies in a predictable way. Languages with only two color categories chunked the spectrum into blacks and whites. Languages with three categories also had a word for red. Green or yellow came next. Then blue. Then brown. And so on.

BMW unveils “blackest black” car sprayed with VantablackDezeen
“Internally, we often refer to the BMW X6 as ‘The Beast’,” said Hussein Al Attar, designer of the BMW X6. “The Vantablack VBx2 finish emphasises this aspect and makes it look particularly menacing. We often prefer to talk about silhouettes and proportions rather than surfaces and lines,” he added. “The Vantablack VBx2 coating foregrounds these fundamental aspects of automotive design, without any distraction from light and reflections.”

Hiding behind cuteness

Earlier, I shared an article about the cute infantilization of corporate logos. It seems there’s a corresponding drift towards patronising, cartoony blandness in illustration too.

Don’t worry, these gangly-armed cartoons are here to protect you from big techEye on Design
How do the cheerful, Mastisse-like illustrations that fill up the corners of any given Facebook page temper the expectations of people using these platforms? Their palpable joy is friendly, approachable, inviting, even—all of which translates to trustworthiness. Facebook has of course, proven to be one of the most untrustworthy public-facing companies in the world, repeatedly spying on users and leaking private data with impunity. Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other outrageous mishandlings like Facebook’s role in inciting genocidal violence in Burma, the company’s public persona is now more than ever in need of a face-lift. As a quasi-monopoly, Facebook seems to never pay for its sins in terms of usership decline—we’re all still there, staring at pages that have become cuter and bubblier as the company they represent grows more and more powerful.

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Men in suits

The subject might sound dry, but this photographic series from Jakob Schnetz looking at the trade fair industry offers us glimpses into a strange, strained, suited world.

Place of promise, a photographic series examining the capitalist world of trade showsIGNANT
Over a period of five years, Schnetz visited more than 40 trade fairs, documenting on film an intriguing world driven by fierce competition to maximise profit. “In Germany’s exhibition halls the newest products are presented, the most efficient services are praised, and the best know-how is exploited,” he continues. “The place of perfect marketing is dominated by standardized scenery, live-shows, men in suits, and the tough fight for customers.” Nevertheless, the images in Place of Promise focus on the social occurrences of the shows, the in-between moments: the phone calls, the morning rituals, and the coffee and cigarette breaks.

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Lend him a hand—or an ear

Cyborgs. So much promise, so little follow-through.

Transhumanism is tempting—until you remember Inspector GadgetWired
It’s comforting to think of the body as a machine we can trick out. It helps us ignore the strange fleshy aches that come with having a meat cage. It makes a fickle system—one we truly don’t understand—feel conquerable. To admit that the body (and mind that sits within it) might be far more complex than our most delicate, intricate inventions endangers all kinds of things: the medical industrial complex, the wellness industry, countless startups. But it might also open up new doors for better relationships with our bodies too: Disability scholars have long argued that the way we see bodies as “fixable” ultimately serves to further marginalize people who will never have the “standard operating system,” no matter how many times their parts are replaced or tinkered with.

In the movies, they’re heroic, philosophical, scary, goofy. In real life? Well.

I remember Professor Reading from Warwick University/Professor Warwick from Reading University being the talk of the town back in the 90s, when I was a student researching interactive art.

The Cyborg: Kevin Warwick is the world’s first human-robot hybridVice
This isn’t just for fun: Warwick is certain that without upgrading, humans will someday fall behind the advances of the robots they’re building – or worse. “Someday we’ll switch on that machine, and we won’t be able to switch it off.” That might explain why he has very little technology at home, and counts The Terminator among his biggest influences. He doesn’t want to become a robot; he wants to be a better human.

It got me thinking about Stelarc, the Cypriot/Australian performance artist who visited our campus one day to deliver a must bizarre lecture. He demoed his extra hand and talked about the new ear he was planning on installing/implanting/growing.

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Here’s Wired’s profile of him, from 2012.

For extreme artist Stelarc, body mods hint at humans’ possible futureWired
He speaks excitedly about potential future applications for the ear. “The ear also might be a kind of distributed Bluetooth system, where if you telephone me on your cellphone, I’ll be able to speak to you through my ear,” Stelarc said. “But because the small speaker and the small receiver would be implanted in a gap between my teeth, I would hear your voice in my head. If I keep my mouth closed, only I hear your voice. If I open my mouth and someone else is close by, they might hear your voice seemingly coming from my mouth. And if I lip-sync, I’d look like some bad foreign movie.”

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Several years and surgical procedures later, and he’s still battling away.

Stelarc — Making art out of the human bodyLabiotech
The final procedure will re-implant the microphone, which will be wirelessly connected to the Internet. The goal is to use it to listen in to what’s happening in other places of the world. “The ear is not for me. I’ve got two good ears to hear with,” the artist says. “For example, someone in Venice could listen to what my ear is hearing in Melbourne.”

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Redefining the human body as “meat, metal and code”: An interview with StelarcSleek Magazine
I left our meeting in awe of a man that, at the age of 71, is still at the foreground of technological art and posthumanist thought. Stelarc was making interactive internet art before the invention of Google (and dare I say it, before I could talk). Decades into his work and exploration of the limits of the human body, Stelarc continues to break and bend our conceptions of what constitutes a body, and fundamentally, what it means to be human.

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