In a radical departure from high-tech flying machines, intelligent robots and similarly geek-oriented cover subjects, the June issue of sci-tech magazine Popular Mechanics features an attractive fashion model perched on a white cube.
Has the magazine sold out to vile commercial interests, eschewing advanced technology in pursuit of bare skin and vacant stares? Not at all, says editor Alan Duggan. In fact, he adds, the cover image of Latvian-born fashionista and singer-songwriter Viktoria Modesta Moskalova is quite in keeping with PM’s exploratory ethos – in this case, the thinking behind “alternative” prosthetic limbs.
In the Popular Mechanics picture, Moskalova shows off an outrageously blinged prosthetic leg, which she describes as “a fashion item and art project”. It’s the work of UK-based Sophie de Oliveira Barata, director of The Alternative Limb Project, a specialist consultancy that works with amputees and their prosthetists to create bespoke and visually compelling artificial limbs.
As Barata explains it, the idea is not only to delight the eye, but also to help to break down social barriers and encourage a positive dialogue about the human body. Says Duggan: “Our conversations with Sophie resulted in an interesting and inspiring article in which we feature four different people, all of them delighted with their radically different prostheses. They didn’t want pretend-limbs; they wanted to make a statement.
“Another beneficiary of Sophie’s expertise was a British ex-serviceman named Ryan Seery, who lost most of his left leg in a landmine blast in Afghanistan. He says most of the amputees he met would like an alternative limb, explaining that they tend to think of their prostheses as items of clothing, such as extended shoes or accessories.
“But for sheer put-it-out-there nerve, Moskalova takes the cake. Here’s what she said after Sophie delivered her first ‘alternative’ prosthesis: ‘The first time I wore a limb that was so obviously bionic, it gave me a total sense of uniqueness and I felt like a mutant human in the best way possible. Most importantly, when the limb is attached and I’m walking with it, my composure has a power that is beyond anything I can describe.’
Adds Duggan: “If you need evidence of that composure, think back to the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, when Moskalova performed live as the Snow Queen while wearing a Swarovski crystal-covered prosthetic leg. That was a class act by a brave and determined woman.”