Bioengineered Replica of Vincent van Gogh's Ear Comes to New York

Ronald Feldman Fine Arts
Ronald Feldman Fine Arts / Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

During Vincent van Gogh's life, he lost an ear. Some believe he cut it off during a mental breakdown, while others speculate that fellow artist Paul Gauguin sliced it off during an argument. Regardless of the how, van Gogh was definitely missing a ear. Now, the artist is dead, but his ear is alive and well—or at least a copy of it is. With the help of scientists, artist Diemut Strebe bioengineered a living replica of the famous missing ear. The macabre creation is currently making its New York debut at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. 

The ear in question—called Sugababe—was, according to Artnet, "grown from tissue engineered cartilage cells procured from a direct male descendant and contains natural DNA from van Gogh and genetic engineered components of historical and synthetic DNA." Created with computer imaging technology, the object matches the shape of van Gogh's ear as it was depicted in self portraits. 

Creepily, you can talk to the ear and it will process what you say. Computer software converts audible input into nerve impulses in real time.

"I'm not sure that everyone understands the full scientific and biological implications," Strebe wrote. "The scientific approach is based on the Theseus's paradox by Plutarch … He asked if a ship would be the same ship if all its parts were replaced. This paradox is brought into a 21st-century context by using a living cell line (from Lieuwe van Gogh) in which we replaced (at least as a proof of principle) his natural DNA with historical and synthesized DNA."

[h/t: ArtNet]