Leonardo da Vinci made no distinction between art and science—and the two fields are converging again
In 2007, the Australian performance artist Stelarc started growing an extra ear on his left arm through a series of operations that are still ongoing. The ear is actually made up of his own stem cells woven into a biodegradable frame. Eventually a Bluetooth device will be inserted and Stelarc will be able to hear and communicate through it.
Stelarc’s work focuses on body enhancement, exploring the radical changes our bodies will undergo in the 21st century. He also created “Exoskeleton,” a 1,300-pound prosthetic machine with six legs driven by 18 pneumatic actuators. Stelarc climbs into the middle of this huge device and pilots it with arm gestures. It is a harbinger of how technology and humans will increasingly merge—a future in which cyborgs (or robotic machines) will be operated by our brains, while the rest of our bodies will become obsolete.
In these experiments, Stelarc creates a brand new art form using science and technology in ways that are artistically pleasing, or aesthetic. Our notions of science and aesthetics are two concepts that have been undergoing redefinition for centuries.
I’ve studied the connections between art and science for 30 years, a passion first sparked while I was growing up in New York City as a kid interested in science in a city …