this cyborg artist can sense the weather using ear implants

Manel de Aguas is developing an artificial organ that will allow him to feel changes in temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure through his skull.

by Raquel Zas
16 July 2019, 8:59am

This article originally appeared on i-D Spain.

If you could have a sixth sense, what would it be? Although it seems unlikely, the truth is that technology gives us the opportunity to take our perceptions to another level, or even correct biological defects of our own senses. All this that can sound like science fiction is a very present reality, and the greatest exponent we have in Spain of it is the Transpecies Society, an association founded by the well-known Neil Harbisson (first person in the world recognized as a cyborg by a government) , the artist Moon Ribas and the artist Manel de Aguas, 22 years old. Precisely the latter is in the process of completing its first artificial organ, Weather Sense, which will allow it to connect sensorially to the weather.

Manel joins the Spanish cyborg community, as did his friends and colleagues Neil Harbisson -which has an antenna that allows him to hear the frequencies of the light spectrum including-, Moon Ribas -which has a sensor implanted in his arm to detect the seismic movements of the earth-or Joe Dekni, which we talked about at the time when an organ was implanted to feel the vibrations of its environment . Manel prefers to be called 'propioespecie', a term used to define an individual that does not correspond to the biological definition of a human being. We talk to him about his new organ (which is installed in its second version, but is not yet implanted), the cyborg philosophy and the future of the species to discover a fascinating world that still has too many prejudices around it.

Tell us about your new organ, Weather Sense. What is it for?
With it I will be able to perceive the temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure through sound by bone conduction.


It is not finished yet, how will it be when it is complete?
The atmosphere will sound inside my head, and depending on the atmospheric conditions that I have in each moment, I will live the experience of being submerged in one type of medium or another. As for the outer part, the organ will have an aspect inspired by the fins of the flying fish, and I will implant a fin on each side of the head, at the height of the temporal bone of the skull.

Why did you choose this type of organ?
I have always felt a special affinity for rain, so when I discovered the possibility of creating a new meaning for myself, I thought it would be good to create one that would connect me even more to this and the other atmospheric phenomena. As for the shape of the organ, I have always been interested in marine species, both real and mythological, so the idea of creating a fin-shaped organ was simply born in me.

Is it for you, in some way, an art form?
In my case, my life as 'ownpecies' will be my performance ; a piece of indefinite duration in which I will interpret my life being a non-human personal species extraconcected sensorially into the atmosphere. This piece is a response to the personal nonconformity that I feel against the anthropocentrism of today's society, which puts the human being on the highest echelon of a false hierarchy of species, and also a response to the desire that I have to increase my environmental awareness, because I feel that throughout my life I have not really been aware of the treatment to which it has been subjected and continues to submit to the planet. Sometimes the solution is in being who you want to be instead of being who you are.


How has your family and environment reacted to the decision to implant the organ?
Both my family environment and my immediate environment have responded well to my personal decision to implant a new organ. At the beginning of the process, everyone had a lot of questions about what involved adding a new artificial organ but, over time, it has become a much more common subject than is spoken naturally. I have always been a person with the desire to explore things outside of my comfort zone, and this is just another of my explorations.

Have you run into someone who criticizes this project or who tries to convince you not to do it? If that were the case, what would you answer?
I have met people with very different opinions, although most of the comments have always turned out to be from a position of interest or curiosity. The few negative opinions that I have received directly have always turned out to be of people who already had a preconceived idea of the cyborg movement, and who see it as a movement that alienates people from their own nature and creates a greater social hierarchical differentiation, where some are better than others because they have more implanted technology or less; although in the end these are just ideas that science fiction has created and people take them as reference.

In my opinion, joining biologically to technology is just another of the options we have today to live life, and may be in the nature of each the desire to add a new artificial organ or not. The question is that we should all have the freedom to do with our bodies and our minds what we want, and today it is still difficult to find doctors who want to implant new artificial organs, because there are still no clinics that contemplate this practice under a ethical principle

Fotografía de @kyo__photography

On the other hand, I see that the fact that there are people with technological implants only means that our society is becoming more and more diverse, and this is only evidence that in the future we will be more and more diverse; not just cultural, ethnic or gender, but also at the species level. The problem is when diversities are observed in a hierarchical way and not in a horizontal way, which is what happens today, taking as an example the millions of animals that die daily for human consumption. I hope that one day we will begin to understand that some of us are not better than others, we are just different.

In short, to the people who could oppose my project, I would ask them to please learn to respect the freedom we all have to modify our body and mind in the way we want, and learn to appreciate the richness of being able to be most diverse society.

You affirm that the implantation of your new organ offers you another perception of life, in what way?
I believe that my new organ offers me the possibility to connect even more to the planet where I live and it can generate in me the feeling of perceiving myself as part of the atmosphere, which would dilute the boundaries between the individual and the environment, perhaps generating a increase in environmental awareness and more empathy for the environment.

In addition, the fact of becoming a non-human species, can make even more equate the relationship you can feel between me and a human individual or me and an individual of another species, allowing me to dilute anthropocentric ideas that may have absorbed what Throughout my life.

Fotografía de @c.pareja

Is cyborg art the future of human progress?
I would say that it is one of the futures with which society will coexist, but not the total and absolute. I think that cyborg art can generate a greater awareness of the environment and knowledge of ourselves, so I hope that in the future there will be many more people practicing it. Today we receive a lot of information from all sides but we really experience few things directly. We all know that the planet is dying, but none really notice it. If we were able to perceive the melting of the poles, we would surely live with the feeling of having entered a state of countdown and perhaps we would react more than we do now.

Who are part of the Transpecies Society? Are there other types of communities in it besides the cyborgs?
The Transpecies Society was created with the aim of giving voice to all kinds of non-human identities, so apart from cyborgs, it is also focused on its own species, otherkin or other types of transspecies.

We have currently opened a new laboratory of new senses that is named Cyborg Foundation Labs (@cyborgfoundationlabs) and is run by our cyborg doctor Fenix Binario. The lab is constituted by a multidisciplinary team, where disciplines such as design, philosophy, engineering, art or medicine converge, and from that great conversion arises a common discipline that is the creation of new senses and new cybernetic organs.

Have you considered implanting another organ in the future?
I have thought of a sense that allows me to perceive the melting of the poles or the growth of the sea level in order to reinforce my climatic awareness, but at the moment they are only sketches in my head.

This article originally appeared on i-D ES.

Neil Harbisson
Moon Ribas
manel de aguas