The finger- and ear-rings by Nadja Buttendorf are like wearables for cyborgs.
Images courtesy of the artist
If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to have more than two ears and ten fingers, then Berlin-based jewelry and nail artist Nadja Buttendorf has got you covered. The EARring and FINGERring are pieces of jewelry that Buttendorf made from silicone to look remarkably like the parts of the body that they’re designed to adorn.
While Buttendorf’s whimsical accessories may just seem like clever art objects, there are thoughtful concepts behind them. Buttendorf tells The Creators Project that her work asks, “If our body [had] another physiognomy, would we look different to the world? Why not to have four ears? What would it like to have four ears? Could we listen different or even more? Why are our ears not positioned on our arms?”
As a member of an organization called Cyborgs eV, Buttendorf is interested in understanding ideas related to the fusion of humans and machines. According to Buttendorf, the organization was founded by someone who needs an acoustic nerve implant in order to hear. “Without it he wouldn't hear anything. Regularly, he has to go to the hospital to adjust it again, that's how the company is still making money.” For Buttendorf, our relationship with machines and technology suggests that we are, in fact, becoming cyborgs. “Our body is the sensor to the world. We perceive information through the body and process it there, to build a common reality,” says Buttendorf. “With the FINGERring and EARring I am using jewelry as a tool to set the human body free of a normbody [sic].”
Buttendorf is so serious about making jewelry for cyborgs that she debuted the EARring last year at CYBORGS ARE AMONG US, the world’s first cyborg fair, in Düsseldorf, Germany. And she explains that these works comment on how we use our bodies to navigate an increasingly machine-aided world. “There have been all these people, implanting RFID chips and [North Sense] under the skin, talking about how easy life can be when you can not forget your key anymore, because you always have them with you. But this is just a very tiny part of talking about cyborgs. There has always been technology shaping the understanding of the human body and the perception of the environment.”
In a series of short videos, Buttendorf shares various ways that the FINGERring can be used to assist with everyday tasks.
Despite the concept of these works having been informed by machines, Buttendorf didn’t actually use any machines to make them. “I started to work a lot with silicone, as it is the closest material to simulate human skin. While doing so I found a way to replicate the ears of friends and my own finger. It was very weird and cool to have these exact replicas of the body parts in my studio of someone else. Mostly I use a silicone called dragon skin. There is no 3D printing involved!”
The ability to laugh at ourselves is certainly an important part of being comfortable in our own skin. If we are going to evolve to keep up with an ever-changing world full of new machines and technologies, it seems like we’ll need the ability to laugh at ourselves more than ever, just as Buttendorf demonstrates in the amusing documentation of her work. And so far, Buttendorf has received some appropriately humorous reactions to the works as well. “Actually a lot of people keep on telling me they once had a 6th finger, but it was cut off as a kid. Or did you ever hear of a six-fingered glove?”
See more of Nadja Buttendorf’s cybernetic enhancements, alien speculative scenarios, and post-human jewelry on her website.