If we could extend our senses in order to perceive the planet in a deeper way, would our understanding and our behavior towards it be different? We caught up with cyborg choreographer Moon Ribas for a mind-blowing journey to discover how technology could bring us closer to nature.
Let’s start at the beginning. You are best known for having an implant that allows you to feel earthquakes. Where does this interest comes from?
I am a choreographer. Within the medium of dance you are creating movement all the time; but movement is not limited to humans. There are other agents that move, and there are other ways of moving and existing. I wanted to perceive these types of movement. And I felt that if I would enact myself as technology I could reach a deeper experience.
Where is the implant located on your body?
My first seismic sense was in my elbow, but later on I realized that it would make more sense if I had it implanted in my foot, which is the part of the body that touches the floor. I thought, if we as humans would have this sense, it would have to be on our feet. I then decided to move the implant to my foot, where I had it for almost seven years.
I wanted to experience something different
But then you removed the implant.
After having had the implant for about seven years, I wanted to experience something different. The most radical thing that I thought that I could do was to simply take out the implants. It’s a process, really. It was more scary to take them out, then to put them in. I didn’t know what would happen.
I thought that everything would be different, but the most surprising thing was, when I took the implant out, nothing really changed. For some months I could still feel the vibrations inside my body, for a period spanning almost eight months. I had like a phantom effect.
Yes. In a way it taught me that I was still able to feel the vibrations without having the implant. That’s how the idea was born to create a jewelry line or a dress out of it, which would enable me to continue to perform Waiting For Earthquakes.
We think that we are alone on the planet — but we're not
How does it feel to experience an earthquake with your body?
When I closed my eyes, I'd imagine that I travelled deep through the layers of the Earth. Throughout the years I was able to reach deeper. It’s like having branches and roots under my feet that allowed me to experience the Earth through those branches. I was able to experience the constant movement of the Earth. I know how our planet moves. Overall it made me realize how little we know about our planet. It's a living organism, but it's just that it's so massive that it's difficult to grasp. It's a profound feeling really.
What do you want your audience to experience while encountering your work?
I like to offer an opportunity just to connect to the planet in a different way than they usually do. It's more about just listening for a while, how long they want to do it, and to realize how alive our planet is and how she moves. It is an invitation to listen for a while, not just to think or look at it from another point of view.
I’m exploring the planet on my own
Do you think humans are not aware enough of their surroundings?
It's important for us as humans to be able to open up; not just to think that the world is like this because we are like this, or because we perceive it in a certain way. We are very human-centric, we think that we are alone on the planet — but we're not, there are many ways of perceiving and existing. There are many things we are missing.
Do you feel that we need to go beyond the human-centric point of view in order for a sustainable planet life?
Certainly. We need to start realizing we're not at the center of the Earth; we are not the only ones. There are many things in the world not 'visible’ to us, because our human senses are limited. That’s interesting to me, almost like I’m exploring the planet on my own. We should get to know our planet better, in order to live with it better.
How does biomimicry inform your work?
We could definitely learn from other species for inspiration. All too often these innovative thoughts are grounded in science fiction, for example being immortal. It's just not a human thing, so instead of thinking in science fiction, why not look at the animal kingdom, and learn from what they know. And see how we can adapt. Rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes reportedly left their homes and headed for safety several days before a destructive earthquake. Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds before an earthquake. What can we learn from that?
We should get to know our planet better, in order to live with it better
What animals and their senses are you inspired by at the moment?
Elephants can communicate using very low frequency sounds, with pitches below the range of human hearing (infrasounds).
How would that translate to humans?
I don't know just yet. We would have to adapt it to our bodies. When you create a new sense, you have to think about how we can translate it exactly. It's like a new language in a new body part that we simply don't have.
Would it be a goal for you to fully democratize next senses? That next senses are just… senses?
I think everyone should have the freedom to do it, but it's more about curiosity. I would like for everyone to experience it, but I wouldn't obligate it. It's a personal choice.