What are some good ways to ren­der cy­ber­netic im­plants that are in­te­grated into the hu­man body?

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Mathilda Dennis, Canada

Dave replies

Look­ing at a lot of cy­borg art, I no­tice how much of it has an em­pha­sis on re­veal­ing a sim­u­lated body. I want to find a dif­fer­ent an­gle. Wearable tech and early forms of im­plants are cer­tainly al­ready here, and it seems this tech­nol­ogy will ini­tially be cen­tred around fash­ion and wealth. The cur­rent think­ing is that im­plant tech­nol­ogy will be mainly ac­ces­si­ble to the rich, so I de­cide to ap­proach the con­cept from that di­rec­tion, and to aim for an air of priv­i­lege and el­e­gance in my im­age. I also want to blur the line on where the im­plants ac­tu­ally be­come part of the body, so it’s a meld­ing of re­placed body parts and wearable tech­nol­ogy.

There’s an old 1960s Star Trek episode fea­tur­ing Diana Muldaur as a blind woman who uses a beau­ti­ful jew­elled sen­sor mesh worn over her cloth­ing to see her sur­round­ings, and I use that as a stylis­tic start­ing point. I also drape some rich fab­ric to cre­ate a fash­ion­able feel. In­stead of be­ing bru­tal in de­sign, the im­plants and wear­ables are del­i­cate and ephemeral: the op­tic in­ter­face seems to be­come glit­ter eye shadow. Does it pen­e­trate the skin? Is it sprayed on? I like the am­bi­gu­ity here.

The fig­ure’s hand, how­ever, is clearly par­tially ar­ti­fi­cial. I think a stylised tech­nique here works bet­ter with the over­all theme, be­cause my main goal is to show that the char­ac­ter isn’t only com­fort­able with the cy­ber­netic im­plants, but also grace­ful and per­haps even proud. I sketch the idea out, look­ing for a more pos­terised, al­most comic-like treat­ment. I let lines and colour ar­eas stay loose. I like the im­pact of more graphic com­po­si­tions, and so I work at sim­pli­fy­ing the lights and darks into larger, uni­fied shapes. By keep­ing these ar­eas flat­ter in tone, I’m hop­ing the light­ing hot spots of the tech will jump out more. The head­piece/eyewear is de­lib­er­ately vague about where it ends or how it even con­nects, ap­pear­ing al­most as a fash­ion ac­ces­sory. I add the same spec­u­lar sparkles to her tu­nic, and I like be­ing de­lib­er­ately ob­tuse about what these de­vices and wear­ables might ac­tu­ally do, rather than con­vey­ing an ex­plicit, ob­vi­ous func­tion to the viewer. For the cy­ber­netic hand, I de­cide that a highly ren­dered sur­face won’t fit the paint­ing style and so I treat it more as a flat, knock­out-type area. I make a rough mask for the hand and fin­gers, and try brush­ing on dif­fer­ent tex­tures and im­ages for a more stylised look. The bright tips tie the fo­cus with other spec­u­lar points around the im­age.

I look at pro­gres­sive fash­ion trends in pros­thetic tech­nol­ogy to get a sense of how real-world peo­ple form re­la­tion­ships with their ar­ti­fi­cial body parts and ex­ten­sions. El­e­gant wearable tech com­bines with body

im­plants for the com­pletely con­nected trans-hu­man... The fact that she looks like the

Bride of Franken­stein is just a co­in­ci­dence!

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