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Published Friday, March 6, 2015

The Woman Who Feels Earthquakes - Transhumanism 2

Moon Ribas, 2012 (Image via Wikimedia commons, Dancelona)

During performances, Moon Ribas shakes onstage to a rhythm that only she can feel. A choreographer and performer from Northern Spain, Ribas is a self-identified cyborg and co-founder of the Cyborg Foundation. It’s goals, according to Ribas, are to help humans become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights, and to promote cyborg art as an artistic and social movement.

On stage, she’s barefoot and begins completely still. Her arms begin to rise and fall, an undulation shakes her body, and depending on the force of the seismic waves she’s receiving, she may fall to her knees and shudder as if she’s having a rhythmic seizure.

The performance is called “Waiting for Earthquakes”.


Has an implant in her arm that connects to an app that vibrates whenever there is an earthquake. The stronger the earthquake, the harder the vibration. As the title of the performance implies, if there’s no earthquake while the performance is happening, Ribas won’t move. People who’ve seen it (I’ve only seen clips) talk about the suspense. Sitting in a completely silent room, watching a still figure. Five minutes pass. Then ten. Suddenly an elbow twitches.

A little adrenaline kicks in, right? Or not. Not everyone loves the show, but a lot of people do.

But how did Ribas settle on the idea of implants?

When she began...

Her career with electronically enhanced performance art, it was with earrings. She had a set of earrings that measured the walking speed of people around her. If someone went by left to right, they would vibrate left to right in response. She could feel the people moving around her, buzzing like a hive. Once she got used to the extra sense, it became part of her. The feel of people moving around her became like any other sense.

That was when she became curious about the earth.


Are the heartbeat of our planet,” she said during a 2014 talk, Searching for My Senses. “I thought it would be amazing if I could perceive a movement as profound as an earthquake: to transpose the universal movement of our planet’s earthquakes to a human body.”

She found app developer Jeffrey Scudder of Pioneer Works, who wrote the software that would transpose earthquakes anywhere in the world, into vibrations that Ribas could feel.

The idea of the Cyborg Foundation came soon after.

"It’s not just...

A matter of performance art," she said. Having a new sense made her a combination of technology and organism. But it didn’t make her feel closer to robots.

“I feel closer to nature, because I can feel my planet, and I feel closer to other animals species because I can feel earthquakes like other animals can.”

Adding new senses via implant is a burgeoning field in body modification. Begun as a way to help those with a damaged sense (Devices like Ribas’s motion sensing earrings are also being developed to help blind people visualize their surroundings) they’ve expanded to adding completely new senses to people seeking a way to change their perceptions.

Most people already have a sense of joining with their technology because of their phone. We say “I don’t have a signal” or “I’m running out of battery” without even thinking about it. What we really mean is that our phone is running out of battery.

But while the 20th century...

Predicted that technology would drive us further from nature, Ribas stresses that it doesn’t have to be that way.

“I strongly believe that we need to learn much more from other animal species, we can get inspired from them. If we take a look at other animals senses we’ll realize that what we think is very unnatural is actually very natural, some animals can fly, some animals can create light, some animals can perceive infrared and ultraviolet, even immortality already exists in nature, there are jellyfish that never die. Adding new senses to the human body will allow us to rediscover the planet where we live in.”


Moon Ribas can be found on Facebook here.

More information about the Cyborg Foundation is available here.


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