Imagining our future bodies

How will new ways of designing our bodies and our health, including gene editing, affect our future selves? Lucy McRae explores these concepts in her art, presenting radical sci-fi ideas that are rooted in science fact

“I operate my best when I’m in unfamiliar territory,” Lucy McRae says. “It’s a sensation I feel in my body and takes a lot of compromise and vulnerability.” The British-born Australian artist is an interpreter working at the fringes of culture. Through film, photography and installation, she speculates on the future of human existence and how we could prepare the body for uncertainty. “Science is on a mission for perfection. Delete disease. Remove anything unwanted,” she explains. “I would argue that our weakness and vulnerabilities are precisely what makes us human.”

McRae is a master of storytelling and experience. She’s spent her career upending scientific hierarchies about our future bodies with curiosity and playful humour. Her works, which she describes as “remnants from a world we have not yet seen but might soon inhabit”, are speculations and tools that imagine the cultural and emotional impact of cutting edge science and technology. While radical and sometimes absurd, the work is grounded in rigorous scientific research crafted not just to offer solutions for our future selves but to provoke public discussion around the ideologies and ethics of our species and where we are headed.

Six years ago, McRae began to examine the long-term implications of isolation and touch deficit, reflecting on effects including our endless dependency on technology to the abilities we would need to thrive in space. Institute of Isolation, McRae’s fictional research documentary, contemplates if isolation could train the body to better adapt to life in space. The film’s lead (played by McRae) moves through a series of sensory chambers, offering alternative methods to condition the body and adapt fundamental aspects of human biology.

Top and above: Compression Cradle; Photos: Scottie Cameron