Lucy McRae: Body Architect
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
August 30, 2019 – February 09, 2020
How will technology transform the body? Lucy McRae – body architect, designer and science – fiction artist – contemplates this question through film and images in her exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. The first survey exhibition of McRae’s provocative and beguiling work, Lucy McRae: Body Architect traverses the Australian artist-designer’s numerous concerns – from art to commerce, science to popular culture – by showcasing her collaborations with brands, scientists and pop musicians alongside her creative research practice over the past thirteen years.
Featured in the exhibition are McRae’s grotesquely beautiful colour digital images created with Dutch textile artist Bart Hess between 2007 and 2009. McRae and Hess use low-tech materials – including balloons, pantyhose, safety pins, grass and bath foam – to initiate high-tech conversations on the body. By speculating on fictional technology, McRae and Hess propose a future human body capable of physiological transformations, including colour-excreting skin and needle-like pores.
Seven of McRae’s colour digital videos, produced between 2009 and 2016, appear in the exhibition. Combining storytelling with speculative science, they delve into the evolving relationship between the human body and technology. Future day spa, 2016, sets the scene for a hypothetical therapy designed to prepare human subjects for a journey beyond current human experience. Bodies are embraced and compressed within a chamber; biology is adjusted and released, ready for space travel. Institute of Isolation, 2016, is an observational documentary that contemplates whether isolation, or extreme experience, might be used to build human resilience in the context of space travel and off-planetary existence.
McRae ponders: what happens to people when they are travelling for decades in a very, very small space? What will the body and mind need to endure and how will people prepare?
Also featured in the exhibition are McRae’s music videos for Australian band Architecture in Helsinki and Danish group Reptile Youth. McRae’s collaboration with Swedish pop star Robyn is represented by McRae’s image for the cover of Robyn’s 2010 album Body Talk.