FANTAST IN FOCUS: MOON RIBAS
Sir Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. His statement may ring true in the work of Spanish artist Moon Ribas. In a way, Moon’s art is ‘techno-magical’. She creatively utilises cutting-edge gadgetry to explore the latent possibilities of the human senses. Moon is also her own lab rat. For the past few years, she’s been bionically modifying her body and steadily acquiring capabilities that would make any comic book enthusiast jealous. So far, she’s limited her cyborg experiments to Earth, but that may not be the case for long. We spoke with her to find out a little more about her views on cyborgism.
The Custodian: Can you define cyborg art for us?
Moon Ribas: Cyborg art is the creation of a new sense involving cybernetics. My creation would be the seismic sense. It’s an artwork that happens inside my body. The artist is the only one who perceives the artwork. In order to share the sense, cyborg artists create external artwork. So I also do performances, music, seismic percussion, and visual art to share my experience.
C: Now you’ve got a seismic sensor implant, but previously you’ve explored vision amplification. What first motivated you to experiment with human sensory perception?
M: It’s a curiosity about perceiving life and the planet that we live in differently. I’ve always been interested in perceiving movement in the deepest way possible. When I was studying in England, I was encouraged to use technology in my artwork. I figured out that if we used technology in the body of the dancer, it would be more natural. The first idea was about speed.
Generally, humans don’t know the speed of the people walking around us. So, I made earrings allowing me to know the speed of pedestrians. I went around Europe testing them. There’s a common sense of a speed, but depending on where you are, people tend to walk faster or slower. Context is important. I found that this was another way of defining the cities that we already know. It really broadened my spatial awareness.
Next, I wanted to perceive movement that didn’t come from people. Something more universal. I realised that the planet is constantly moving. It moves and shakes through earthquakes, but most of the time we don’t feel them. These are huge movements which are most of the time imperceptible.
C: What’s your opinion of the transhumanism and posthumanism movements?
M: These groups like to talk about the future of the human species. Some of them see the evolution of humans as something about betterment and ascendance. I see it more like a horizontal line. That’s why I define myself as an organism. No being is better than the other one. For me it’s not about vertical development, but more horizontal expansion.
C: To create your art, you make use of the brain’s plasticity, its potential to unfold unique forms of consciousness. How has this art-generated mental growth impacted your daily life?
M: Our brains are like sculptures. We can modify them like we shape stone or wood. My perception of the planet, my union to it, has changed drastically. I had to get used to all these constant vibrations, but now they’re a part of me. I feel like I have two heartbeats. I feel much closer to nature than before. Ironically, even though I’m a cyborg, I feel closer to nature than to a machine.
C: One could say that another way of effecting such dramatic cognitive changes is meditation. Would you say that cyborgism is an alternative method of generating mindfulness?
M: I never thought it would relate to meditation. I think meditation is more about yourself. What we do is more planetary, it’s more external—how we connect to the world around us.
C: What could be your next superpower?
M: I don’t like that term actually [laughs]. These aren’t unnatural powers; they’re senses that are organic like the ones we find in animals. I’d say that the next stage for me is the perception of outer space. With the internet, we discovered that the senses don’t have to be connected to our body. So we can feel things that are happening all around the world. My current project is to feel the seismic activity on the moon. In a way, I will be able to be on Earth and in space at the same time. I want to become a ‘senstronaut’ so that I can have an idea of what is beyond our planet.