Who is Neil Harbisson?
Neil Harbisson is a British-Irish cyborg artist of Spanish origin. He is also an activist for transpecies rights. He is famous for being the world`s first person who has an antenna implanted into his skull. He has also been recognized lawfully as a cyborg by a government. The antenna on his head, which he calls an ‘eyeborg’, can send audible vibrations through his skull so that the information can be reported to him. This can also include measurements of electromagnetic radiation, as well as phone calls and music, which can all be translated into audible vibrations. His antenna is also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled. It can also allow him to receive signals as well as data from satellites. Harbisson thinks of himself as a technology, as well as a transpecies. He has also stated that he no longer feels 100% human. He is the co-founder of the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization which defends rights of cyborgs, as well as promotes cyborg art. They also support other people wanting to become cyborgs. He also co-founded the ‘Transpecies Society’ in 2017, which is an association known for giving voice to the people who have non-human identities. They also raise awareness of the problems and challenges faced by transpecies.
Childhood & Early Life
Neil Harbisson was born on 27 July 1984 in Mataró, Spain. His mother was Spanish and his father was Northern Irish. From an early age, he suffered from Achromatopsia, an severe form of colour blindness, which resulted in him seeing in greyscale.
He was raised in Barcelona. He learnt the piano and also started composing music when he was 11. Later, at the age of 16, he attended the Institut Alexandre Satorras to study fine arts. He was granted a special permission to use no colour in his works. His early works are therefore, only in black and white.
In order to save three trees from being cut down, he had lived in a tree for several days when he was a teenager. Around 3000 people supported him and signed a petition, after which the city all announced that they would not cut the trees.
He moved to England when he was 19 years old, to attend the Dartington College of Arts where he studied music composition.
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The movement of cyborg art, also known as cyborgism, began during the mid-2000s, in Great Britain. It is based on the creating and adding new senses to the body with the use of cybernetic implants. Neil Harbisson`s work of cyborg art is defined by him as the art of designing new senses as well as organs, to eventually merge with them. He also compares his practice of cyborg art to sculpture.
The Cyborg Antenna was permanently attached to Harbisson`s head in 2004. He had begun developing it in 2003, with Adam Montandon. Though many bioethical committees rejected the antenna implant surgery, eventually few anonymous doctors agreed for it. The sensory system allows him to feel as well as hear colours as audible vibrations inside his head. It can also feel colours like infrareds and ultraviolets which are invisible to the human eye.
Harbisson executed the first ever skull-transmitted painting in 2014. Colours were sent from audience members in Times Square, which was received by Harbisson`s brain. He was able to correctly identify and paint the same color stripes onto a canvas in front of a different audience. His artwork has been ranked together along with Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono, as one of the most 10 shocking performances ever.
Neil Harbisson has made immense contribution to promote public awareness about transpecies, cyborgs, artificial senses as well as human evolution. He has given regular public lectures at several conferences, universities as well as LAN parties. He has also participated in music, fashion, science as well as art festivals, such as British Science Festival, London Fashion Week and Sonar.
A short film was made about Harbisson in 2013, which won the ‘Grand Jury Prize at the Focus Forward Filmmakers Competition at the Sundance Film Festival’.
In 2014, another fictional short film was made about Harbisson`s life. Another documentary film titled ‘Hearing Colors’ was made about Harbisson in 2015, which won the New York`s ‘Tribeca Film Festival X Award’. In 2016, he was also seen in a supporting role in the independent film ‘Adam Green`s Aladdin.’
Neil Harbisson has also appeared in numerous documentaries by networks such as ‘Discovery Channel’ and ‘Documentos TV’. He has also participated in several radio programs, and has also contributed in magazines and newspapers, like ‘The New York Times’ as well as ‘The Scientist’.
Family & Personal Life
The renewal of his British passport was rejected in 2004, as the UK Passport Office couldn’t allow someone to appear with an electronic device on their head. Therefore, he decided to write back and explain that he identified as a cyborg and his antenna should be treated not as a device, but as a body part. His photo was eventually accepted.
He is possibly single, and there is no information regarding his love life.