Mike Spencer
Artist Blacksmith

Organ of Corti

Sage of the Gods
Wise Sage
Master of Secrets
Master of the Ear
Akkadian epithets for
Enki, the "crafty god"

In myth, metaphor, art and technology the mystique of the eye is much with us.

Deep and luminous eyes...
A soulful gaze...
It was true for I could see it in her eyes....
The eye of the Lord...
Seeing is believing.

For the Sumerians, the eye was the portal of light -- truth -- but the ear was the portal of language -- wisdom and reason.

What we see is just lightwaves and optics until it reaches the retina. In the retina light is transformed into mind -- an event in brain.

And what of the ear, of things heard? Language and music are just vibrations and acoustics until they reach the cochlea and, within it, the organ of Corti, deep inside the wall of the skull, where they, too, become mind -- events in the central nervous system.
Like the retina and the brain itself, the organ of Corti is a highly organized construction of subtly differentiated cells, membranes and channels. There, the vibrations passed in by the tympanum and the tiny bones of the middle ear are sorted and allotted to multitudinous nerve endings in organized patterns from which the central nervous system constructs our experiences of language, music and all things audible.

Organ of Corti was inspired by photomicrographs of the helical tract of the cochlea in which the natural organ lies. The malleable details of organic microstructure are agreeably accommodated by the plasticity of hot, malleabe iron. Organ of Corti is not intended to be an anatomical model, precise in every detail, but is nevertheless true to the organization of the inner ear so expressive or organic complexity.

Organ of Corti -- Wall-mounted sculpture. Forged and welded steel. about 1 meter wide.
Collection of the late Dr. Harold F. Schuknecht.
Original photo by Peter Barss
Updated 9 May 2000 -- Mike Spencer