Cyborg artists to give lectures and perform as part of “Sonic Cyborgs” series, April 11-14, 2016

Vassar College’s Creative Arts Across Disciplines Initiative is sponsoring a second series of events exploring “Sonic Cyborgs.” All three events are free and open to the public, no reservations needed.

A cyborg is defined as a person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built in to the body. But what, exactly, constitutes being a cyborg? Can computer enhancements actually make people more human and develop enhanced artistry and expressivity?  These questions will be explored by two visiting artists who practice different versions of cyborgism, an emerging art movement based on the creation and addition of new senses to the body via cyberkinetic implants.

Artist and activist Neil Harbisson self-identifies as a cyborg. Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, an inability to see color. In 2004 he had an antenna implanted in his skull that allows him to perceive visible and invisible colors such as infrareds and ultraviolets via sound waves and vibrations. The antenna’s internet connection allows him to receive colors from space as well as images, videos, music or phone calls directly into his head via external devices such as mobile phones or satellites. Harbisson’s talk, “Life in the Age of Cyborgs,” will focus on how becoming a cyborg has brought him closer to nature and animals. This event will take place on Monday, April 11, 5:30pm, in Rockefeller Hall, room 200.

Marco Donnarumma merges sound art and performance art through science and technology. His works rely on the material force of sound to produce intensely intimate encounters of bodies and machines through vivid sensory and physical experiences. To achieve these dramatic effects, Donnarumma invented Xth Sense, a wearable musical instrument that transforms the sound of the heart, blood, and muscle into digital information that is fed into a computer, turning the wearer’s arms into independent midi controllers. On Thursday, April 14, 8:00pm, Donnarumma will give a performance of Corpus Nil, birth ritual for a modified body, in the Vassar Chapel.

Corpus Nil is Donnarumma’s newest work. Two years in the making, Corpus Nil hybridises the languages of dance, sound art and body art into a tense choreographic interchange between a human performer and an autonomous machine. As the performer moves, the machine uses the bioelectrical voltages and the bioacoustic sounds from Donnarumma’s body as the raw material to autonomously generate monolithic sound and light patterns. The human performer and the machine, form a novel kind of body, unknown and partial, disturbing and graceful. As in a trance-like experience, the pulsating rhythm induces visual and auditory effects: while the physical form of the body on stage seems to gradually mutate, its corporeal sound is felt as it was beating within the spectator’s bodies.

Harbisson and Donnarumma will be in conversation on Wednesday, April 13, 4:00pm, in  Rockefeller Hall, room 200. The two will discuss their different versions of cyborgism.

All of these events are sponsored by the Creative Arts Across Disciplines initiative at Vassar, which is generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About Neil Harbisson

Neil Harbisson is a Catalan­ raised, British ­born contemporary artist and cyborg activist best known for having an antenna implanted in his skull and for being officially recognized as a cyborg by a government. His artworks investigate the relationship between color and sound, experiment the boundaries of human perception and explore the use of artistic expression via sensory extensions. In 2010 he co­founded (with Moon Ribas) the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization that aims to help humans become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborgism as a social and artistic movement. Watch his TED Talk here.

About Marco Donnarumma

Marco Donnarumma (PhD) is an artist and researcher who merges sound art and performance art through science and technology. He creates performances, concerts and installations using and abusing human bodies, sound, infrasound, light, algorithms, body sensors and loudspeakers. His creative process is a continuous feedback between artistic intuition, scientific experiments and development of custom technologies. Donnarumma has received a number of awards, most notably: the first prize in the Guthman New Musical Instrument Competition (Georgia Tech, US) for the XTH Sense; the Cynetart Prize for Computer Based Art (Hellerau, DE) and the Transitio New Media Art Award (Cenart, MX) for Nigredo; a Rockefeller Foundation and Harvestworks CTE Fellowship; and a European Research Council scholarship. He was granted fundings from the European Commission, British Council, Creative Scotland, New Media Scotland and the Danish Arts Council. He has an invited artist in residence at the National School of Theatre and Contemporary Dance (DK). Watch a preview of Corpus Nil here.

About Creative Arts Across Disciplines (CAAD)
In 2014, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Vassar College a grant for this multi-year initiative to enhance integration of the creative arts across the college curriculum. CAAD utilizes artist residencies, thematic programming, faculty and curricular development initiatives and student creative projects to broaden collaboration across academic disciplines.

Each academic year, CAAD has focused on one of the five senses. The theme for the 2015-16 year is hearing.

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (

Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, March 18, 2016