The "Prosthetics Project" [art project review]

I found this Art Project a while back but had no time to sit down to type up something about it. Now let us have a look here.


The following images are all (C) Copyright 2009 as specified on that website.

Decoration of damage

Here, we see feathers and flowers cover the area of a missing arm. While decoration can be interesting, this type of decoration misses one point: technical and social task.

Socially, attention is to be distracted and taken away from areas of concern if items of pure decoration are an issue at all. Not onto areas of concern but away from them. If you miss an arm, you want people to look into your eyes (as on the Tanja Kiewitz ad) or elsewhere.

Technically, decoration may be an art to add to the disability but not at the cost of function. As that, I see colored sleeves, modified sockets, gloves or hands as an option (see Red Hand Series and Art Reviews for some further experiences). Tattoos may be definitely a way to go. But not cluttering up arm space with feathers or flowers.

Here, "discussion about limb loss" is to be provoked with some transparent stiff plastic arm.

Yeah well. What was it y'all wanted to "discuss" anyway? I am not sure you really go places with this type of item. Discuss what you want to discuss but don't make it dependent on what color of lipstick, what hair gel or what transparency of arm you wear.

Using transparent arms by art students that do prosthetic arm projects seems to now have a history that can be listed as follows:
2009 Marlyn Dantes, USA
2010 Becky Pilditch, UK

For some reason, this idea did not find viral hysterical support throughout any amputee community. After I first tried to get a transparent Becker hand, but failed, I decided to use a CT-Scan of a Becker hand to visualize how it looks as transparent item and lo and behold, I was not overly impressed. It would be great to test it maybe - but time passes. Now in the meantime, completely other considerations have taken place - mostly regarding weight, surface, grip geometry and force - that rather completely overhauled any of these transparency ideas.

After all, life is not a still image.

Life like hand still gesture

These hands are KEWL in the prepubescent meaning of the word.

Of course you want to use finger poses for a range of reasons. And being able to do these has its advantages. However, these hands are more like the "Hands of Geekdom" (as shlepping these around, and when at any point in time requiring such a hand position going "stop let me get that hand first" and then using it really is a silly idea).

My cosmetic arm, however, approximates that. It really does. I can bend its fingers and I do. Most importantly, I can bend it for paperwork, for typing, and for other manual activities that require subtle changes in finger position. So for all practical benefits, this has been recognized already.

In terms of dynamic prostheses, however, Becky Pilditch pioneered this prosthetic prototype that really does something to the nature of gesturing that I like:

Cute toolbox idea

Funny. Art students discover it could be cool to swap terminal devices. It just had to get the year 2009 for them to do that.

At any rate - yes, it can be very important to be able to swap devices. That is why we built our MSM wrist, the first one in 2008, the final PUPPCHEN wrist 1 in 2010. That is why there are many hooks or hands around, it explains Becker hands, V2P Prehensor and a lot of what Hosmer sells, and that is why there exist Texas Assistive Devices and TRS. How cool children think these ideas are (up there) really remains to be seen. Maybe a collaboration with LEGO may be interesting.

But thanks for discovering that as "useful". Maybe now the public also thinks of that as "useful" as before they may not have considered it. Maybe now that is what these people meant by "discussion about limb loss"?

Swimming with transradial amputation

Another designer idea without any idea related to swimming.

I should now address this. I played water polo and did a bit of swimming as a kid, I still swim a bit. Alright, "a bit" would be an understatement. I am probably faster than the majority of non-disabled people in my age group and definitely one of the faster swimmers among disabled people; I ranked among the top seventy swimmers world wide for 50m crawl in the IPC-class S9 in the year 2010, and as that, the second fastest of the over 40-year old swimmers. All others in that list were younger, most were considerably younger.

Now, I swim 100m crawl arm pull (legs rested with pulll buoy) in 1:18 without any assistive devices. Yeah I know I am getting old and falling apart, but if you are ~ 44 years old, try that first with two hands. Then take it from there. One thing you could ask it: what does it take to swim fast? It doesn't take these paddles there. They'd be in the way.

Paddles create both torque and straight forces onto the paddle surface area. When I wear a paddle on my stump, there is simply no way to avoid it swiveling sideways. I put full force for propulsion on my arms and if the paddle anchoring does not address that, any such design will fail due to swivel. Of course we could devise a mechanism to fix this to my arm without swivel but that necessarily will add bulk, weight and most likely some stiffness to my elbow.

There is no way to do a firm fix mount on a conical stump without major impediment.

Cargo pockets, cargo sleeve

Um, no.

I suffer from hard and tense neck, shoulder and trapezius muscles anyway. Most arm amputees I know and that I know of try to reduce any weight as desperately as they can. What I do is trying to minimize long term strain of these muscles. The last thing I'd get was more drama damaging that area. These sleeves look like more drama. Also they add heat, and with a body powered arm, there is already more than enough heat trapped around the arm, shoulder and neck area. Or try to convince the TSA - that already seem to have a love hate relationship with amputees - that these pockets are really cool.

If there are bags that really make life better, I look at brands such as Freitag, Crumpler and North Face. And I try to minimize clutter, weight and overall stuff.

So, really. What are they thinking.

Shoulder harness

I will welcome harness redesign.

But the tricky problem of the harness is its pressure on brachial plexus portions and infliction of "double crush" injury which is my problem right now as well - plexus compression facilitates carpal tunnel syndrome. Hence the term "double" crush.

A shoulder harness thus should allow for forces to be generated by using body parts whose compression does not cause long term problems. This - what we see here - is not such as shoulder harness.

The problem area of compression is at the anterior shoulder above the shoulder crease. There, strap design is problematic.

But if you don't know the problem, you cannot solve it.

Their suggestion for OPP web redesign

"Can a disability become an enviable situation"? I have not seen less qualified statements than this. This is below any standard. Why are there no useful subjects on this mock-up anyway? Why is it filled with silly ideas and unrealistic visions? Where are the good things that we want and need from investigative journalism, artistry or engineering? Why is the T-hook mentioned there when in fact there is a modern product that supersedes the T-hook? Is it hard to know which product? Why don't you know?

Why is it that people write "prosthetics" over their projects that deal with arm prostheses and yet, they lack understanding just ever so completely? No deep seeded humor, no wit, not a hint of subtle understanding - why? The "Greasy Spoon" exhibit by Brian Walker nailed it at once - where this project just sailed past so many points. Why? What is it with these people?

OK, we won't tell : )

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - The "Prosthetics Project" [art project review]; published 20/02/2011, 22:21; URL:

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1618623697, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - The "Prosthetics Project" [art project review]}}, month = {February},year = {2011}, url = {}}