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Touch and Isolation: a dialectic of art and science

Lucy McRae, a Sci-Fi artist, director and self-proclaimed body architect, talks about the project developed during her Sparks-residency: an observational fictional documentary exploring the idea of body isolation and its benefits for medical treatments.

For the last 18 months, Lucy McRae has been dealing with the subject of health and medicine from the perspective of science-fiction. She uses art as a way to express things that she does not understand or to depict questions raised during various scientific research projects.

The film project she has been working on, titled The Institute of Isolation, explores the possibility that replicating the feeling of being hugged in a controlled environment could help to treat conditions like agoraphobia, the fear of being touched, autism, depression or anorexia. The idea came during a previous project called Future Day Spa, in which Lucy performed a bodily isolation test on 100 subjects who generally shun physical contact with people. ‘[…]one person lying in a vacuum container exhibited an extraordinary reaction. […]he felt “embraced” by this form of envelopment—and thus very vulnerable. When he emerged and stood up, he hugged me, even though, as I just mentioned, he’s extremely stand-offish towards others.’, remembers the artist.

In the film, Lucy embodies someone who is interested in optimising herself and the production shows how this person goes through the process. Being a fictional documentary, the film is a blend of hard facts and science fiction; its content is based on scientific works and doctoral dissertations, but it gradually takes shape of an allegory of Lucy’s conviction that evolution is driven by human beings’ will and imagination and not the other way round. The fictional aspect is getting closer and closer to scientific fact, which makes the case for using artistic means to explain science.

Stylistically, the look of The Institute of Isolation is reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s cinematic aesthetic. Lucy McRae explains that she always felt inspired by Anderson’s loving attention to detail in constructing an environment isolated from reality, which facilitated a different form of storytelling, almost whimsical, about how science can improve human life and redefine human contact.

You can find more information about the project, by reading the interview with Lucy on the Ars Electronica blog.

Photo credit: Veronika Pauser

Photo credit: Courtesy of Local Androids and Anouk Wipprecht - See more at: http://sparksproject.eu/article/news/who-said-unicorns-didnt-exist#sthas...
Events date: 
Tuesday, April 12, 2016