Between art and technology, the Alternative Limb Project was founded in 2011 by Sophie de Oliveira Barata, using the medium of prosthetics to replace body parts with unique sci-fi inspired limbs.
Sophie’s studio is filled with body parts. Thighs here, some fingers there, right next to a transparent leather arm covered with fur, and a silicone leg covered with feathers looking forward to meeting its future body. Sculptures? Works of art? None of that, actually. These are prosthetics destined to those who have lost a body part or were born without one.
Based out of her studio in north-west London, Sophie creates highly stylised art pieces out of various materials customised for each wearer according to their vision. If some would rather stick to realism with classical prosthetics, others want what she calls ‘alternative limbs’. And this is where creation has no limits, apart from those her clients set for themselves.
Sophie De Oliveira Barata started as a special effects artist, and she used to create prosthetics for television and film. She traded all that to create realistic-looking limbs, but also what she calls “alternative limbs”. While using her artistic skills, alternative limbs would allow her to design something more unusual that would “speak from people’s soul and people’s imagination”.
With materials such as wood, glass or metal, Sophie can create limbs imagined by her clients and “turn them into reality or works of art”. These limbs become their strength and pride.
“It’s nothing unless it is being worn by the person. And it’s incredible to see it functioning as a body part.”
Following her clients’ tastes and dreams, Sophie celebrates body diversity and changes our perception of the human body, especially when injured. With this very cool robotic-superhuman vibe, she allows her clients to embrace their limb in a different way. Instead of hiding or simply mending the injured parts, she wants to sublimate them. Just like fashion, alternative limbs become a mean of expression and an extension of the wearer’s identity.
“With these kinds of pieces, the conversation is changed from one of pity to one of amusement. It’s a way of saying: ‘If you want to stare at something, I will give you something to stare at.’”
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Words: Pauline Schnoebelen
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