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It should perhaps come as no surprise that the elbow of dancer Moon Ribas cannot predict an earthquake. (Sorry.) What is surprising is that it can tell you if one is happening halfway around the world, thanks to a surgically embedded sensor linked to a global web of seismographs. Any quake registering one or more on the Richter scale generates vibrations in her arm.
Ribas interprets the vibrations into dance, which gets awkward if there is no earthquake, leaving her motionless before a room full of paying audience members. Luckily, rumbling occurs somewhere in the world every few minutes. The Nepal quake of 2015 woke her in the middle of the night. “When it’s something really devastating, I feel terrible. It’s a very weird thing. It not only connects you to the planet but also other people,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Seismic Sense is not Ribas’ first piece experimenting with sense-altering technology. In 2007, she wore a pair of kaleidoscope glasses allowing her to see only color, but not shape. She travelled across Europe never taking them off, befriending people without ever seeing their faces. Speedborg is what she called her next experiment, a pair of earrings that registered through vibration the speed of elements around her. (Does that technology even exist? She’s an artist, people.) Seismic Sense is the first time she has had a device surgically implanted, marking a departure for the New York-based 31-year-old Spaniard, officially making her a cyborg — and not just any cyborg, but a leader of cyborgs.
Ribas is co-founder of the Cyborg Foundation, which is dedicated to “an artistic and social movement that aims to create artworks through new senses or the extension, reduction or modification of an existing sense as a result of the union of cybernetics and the body,” according to its website. Her co-founder is childhood friend and artist Neil Harbisson, who was born with color-blindness that was corrected through an implant in his head he calls “eyeborg,” which converts color into sound. With the modification, a walk through the grocery store is like a night at the symphony, and one can eat a favorite song for breakfast.
“We collaborate sometimes with universities. We advise and we put people together to collaborate” is how Ribas describes the foundation, which branches out next month with Cyborg Nest, offering the public a chance to join the ranks of what they hope is a growing cyborg movement. For the reasonable price of $300, you can never lose direction again, thanks to North Sense, a compass-like implant that orients the user no matter how unfamiliar their surroundings. All procedures are medically sanctioned and certified with insurance and paperwork completed.
“We have to attend to the rights of designing our own bodies and our own minds. We don’t need to wait for natural evolution anymore. We are in an era that we can evolve in our lifetime and keep changing,” says Ribas, who bases a separate performance on drums that also originates from the tectonic plates. Current plans are to finance earthquake research with a portion of the funds generated by her artwork.
Future plans are literally out of this world. “Space exploration is next. I want to perceive seismic activity on the moon, connect to the moonquakes so it will allow me to be in space at the same time,” she explains. “Buzz Aldrin was in charge of putting a seismograph on the moon, but it broke. They’re finding other ways to detect seismic data on the moon. So I’m working on it.”
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