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Cultural Embassy



London-based Lucy McRae gave the keynote at Ninety Minutes of Frame on October 3rd and was our guest over this time. The engaging lecture series themed 'Get Physical' is in its fourth edition so a keynote from a self-proclaimed Body Architect fits the scene. Merging backgrounds in classical ballet and interior design, McRae explores relationships between the body and technology.

You’re training to go to outer space?
Lucy McRae: Training to go to outer space is connected with my background as a ballerina and an athlete, and it’s also about pushing boundaries. I imagine that what I’m doing is like that magnetic liquid that spikes – I add another element and it peaks somewhere else. I feel a strong connection between the edges or limits of the body and the act of training to go to space. It’s almost like describing what a body architect is – a series of research projects, one after another. I ask myself: what am I doing now, and how does it define who I am or what I call myself?

Are you training in the physical sense?
I’m following my own recipe. When I was working with Bart [her creative partner Bart Hess], we used our bodies to create an image. I’m using my body to experiment. This is essentially an art project. I’m working with a personal trainer, who says he’s trained members of the secret service. At the moment, I’m combining balletic moves – using my core – to balance on aerated surfaces that are slippery and round.

What do you hope to get out of the training?
I want to go to outer space.

Do you think that will happen?

Making images is quite different to directing short films. How have you translated your experiences into film making?
At university I was always drawing a section, a plan and an elevation and rarely axonometric drawings, so whenever I shoot, I either shoot in elevation, a section or bird’s eye view like recreating a technical drawing. What I found really challenging was telling a story. Films focus on the actors whereas for me, the architecture or the material is my focus. The characters adjust to everything else. When I’m on set I am the director, but I am also the one moving the elements around, choreographing the movement of the materials. In a way I had never done it before, but it came very naturally.

Is the aim to provoke people to think in a different way?
Yes, and also to work with them – that is always the ideal outcome. For some reason I gravitate towards the biotech and beauty industry, I like thinking about how technology will transform what they are producing. For example, collagen grows in a very different way in space; astronauts age slower. I would like to give ideas on how that can work out if we had to deal with it now.

Your processes seem to involve technology, but you often come up with a low-tech, hands-on, material-focused result. Why don’t you exploit new technologies?
I always work with what I’ve got. I know what’s accessible. I like mimicking technology in the same way I mimicked ballet, doing it my way, in my world. You can think of it as a form of evolution. Sometimes the body works like a machine – I am the body working the machine.

What is it about the reimagining of a brand or an industry that you like?
When I was growing up, I took the labels off my clothes and put them on other things to create my own brands. I couldn’t afford expensive items, so I made my own. Most of what I make today is temporary – it moulds, it needs to be refrigerated, it’s on film. I like the idea of making tangible objects. Why not have perfume you can eat? Why isn’t everyone training to go to outer space? There’s yoga and Pilates. What about astronaut aerobics?

Interview courtesy Frame magazine.