Cyborg artist Moon Ribas feels earthquakes

Freya Hutchings
February 11th 2020

Imagine waking in the night, and feeling the vibrations of an earthquake on the other side of the world pulsing through your body. This is a reality for Catalan-born artist Moon Ribas. How? She proudly proclaims: "I'm a cyborg."

Two implants located in Ribas' feet are connected to online seismic sensors, which send real-time vibrations through her body whenever an earthquake takes place. The strength of the vibrations correspond with the veracity of seismic movements. "Before, I knew Earth was a living organism, now I feel it", says Ribas. A more recent implant also allows her to sense moonquakes. So, although she may physically dwell on earth, her feet feel the moon.

Ribas' new-found seismic sense allows her to surpass the limitations of human perception, and sync her body with the often incomprehensible scales and movements of natural phenomena. She shares the impact of her cyborg status with others through the medium of dance. For her performance "Waiting for Earthquakes", Ribas uses her body to communicate the sensations she feels: “Earth is my choreographer, she tells me when to move, she marks the rhythm."

Ribas sees technology as an opportunity to change our relationship with our surroundings: "now that I’m a cyborg, I don’t feel closer to machines or to robots, I feel closer to nature, because I can feel my planet, and I feel closer to other animal species because I can feel earthquakes like other animals can. If we could extend our senses in order to perceive and understand our planet in a deeper way, our behavior would change." Ribas fiercely believes we can all expand our perception and become "senstronauts." Instead of changing the world, she asks us "to be brave enough to transform ourselves."

Along with childhood friend and fellow cyborg Niel Harbisson, Moon Ribas co-founded the Cyborg Foundation in 2010. The foundation is an international organization that aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborg art. In 2017, she formed the Transpecies society, a group that gives a voice to non-human identities and defends the right to self-design.

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Should men be able to give birth to children?

Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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