Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Putting the "Art" in artificial

If you are going to replace a limb, why not do it with style?

That's the thought of Sophie de Oliveira Barata, anyway.  She is a London-based artist and designer who is reinventing what it means to have a body prosthesis.  Her work is a gallery of crystalline legs and snake arms that actually slither, evoking the surrealist art of Salvador Dali as mentioned in the linked article.

"Having an alternative limb is about claiming control and saying 'I'm an individual and this reflects who I am,' " says de Oliveira Barata.

The psychological benefits do seem considerable.  I've never lost a limb and hope never to find out for certain, but I imagine it does challenge your concept of identity.  By selecting one of these replacement or "alternative" limbs, one would in fact be asserting their identity post-trauma.

This does seem a bit counter-intuitive to previous notions of body prosthesis.  Up until now, artificial arms and legs have been designed to be as innocuous as possible.  De Oliveira Barata's works of art are anything but.  For example, singer and model Viktoria Modesta wore a de Oliveira Barata piece while performing at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.  Modesta, who had one leg amputated during her teen years due to health complications, sported a bejeweled leg made of crystal.  Talk about bling.  Modesta shrugs it off as just another fashion choice.

"Being a self-confessed fashionista, things that I'm into tend to change all the time, and like most key pieces in my wardrobe I would only wear it a number of times," she said.

In fact it was Modesta who collaborated on de Oliveira Barata's first prosthetic piece, a leg made of speakers and other stereo components (perfect for the amputee/music lover near you).  A picture of this leg is available in the gallery of the article so I'll let you check that out for yourself.  A casual pass through this gallery reveals a few more stunning pieces.  A veteran of the war in Afghanistan has a leg that is rendered to emulate exposed bone and muscle.  There is also an especially enticing piece, a leg that resembles that of a porcelain doll with vines and floral work painted down the side.

To me, a project such as this goes beyond giving someone the means to be mobile once more.  This is about the healing power of art.  

And that ain't bad.

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