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Van Gogh's severed ear brought back to life

Using cells from a relative of the famous tortured artist, plus a 3D printer, the ear lost by the artist can "hear" once again.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Contributing editor Eric Mack covers space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Eric Mack

Van Gogh's ear gets a 21st century reboot. Diemut Strebe

The familiar archetype of the tortured artist has a strong link to Vincent Van Gogh above all, and more specifically to his legendary severed ear.

Now, with the help of one modern artist and some scientists -- who perhaps have a bit of a macabre streak -- that very ear is back... kind of.

Artist Diemut Strebe got help from scientists in re-creating Van Gogh's ear using living tissue grown with cells taken from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent's brother Theo.

Genetically similar cells were grown at a Boston hospital and shaped into the form of an ear using a 3D printer before being shipped off to be put on display in a German museum.

Adding to the weirdness of the installation, museum-goers can even talk to the ear and it will actually "hear" you. I'll let the museum explain how:

"The input sound is processed by a computer using software that converts it to simulate nerve impulses in real time. The speaker remains in soliloquy. The crackling sound that is produced is used to outline absence instead of presence."

It could be the closest thing to traveling back in time to tell Van Gogh that it's OK to chill out every now and then. You know, don't sweat the small stuff, Vince.

The ear is kept "alive" in a nutrient solution and will be on display at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe through July 6.

(Via The Associated Press)