The Art of Prosthetics

Jonathan Strickland

Close up of Ryan Seary's "Removable Muscles" leg, photographed by Omkaar Kotedia

A good friend of mine named Lucas Ryan heard that I was working on a video about transhumanism and prostheses -- probably because I can't stop talking about how much I love working on this show -- and pointed me in the direction of the Alternative Limb Project. This project's purpose is to make customized prosthetic limbs that are more than an artificial arm or leg. They are also an extension of the owner's personality.

A quick glimpse at the images available on the site will give you an idea about the amazing customization project director Sophie de Oliveira Barata offers her clients. She acts as a consultant with a patient's prosthetist and collaborates with other artists and craftspeople to design unique, customized limbs.

The thing that fascinates me most about her work is that she can collaborate with a client to help design a limb that incorporates elements of the fantastic into the prosthesis itself. On the project's profile page, she explains that she works with the clients to make the limb a reflection of that person's identity. The image that I picked is the prosthetic leg she designed for Ryan Seary, an ex-serviceman who lost his leg in an explosion during a search mission in Afghanistan.

The result of her work is that the client receives a limb that is truly his or her own. It's not merely a simulated arm or leg designed to give some utility back to the patient. It's a manifestation of who that person is. I find the entire project to be absolutely fascinating and some of the creations take my breath away. Whether it's an arm that contains secret compartments or one of her upcoming "Gadget limbs" (I really wish I could see these but they aren't complete yet), her work gives patients the opportunity to turn something many people would see as a handicap into a genuinely captivating extension of themselves.