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1st February 2013
Body architect
Title of film: Make Your Maker Short Film
Director: Lucy McRae
Lucy McRae draws on her background in ballet, architecture, technology, fashion and science to express her unique vision. Here she talks to 1.4 about her fascination with the human form and her move into making videos

Tell us a bit about your background and where you’ve come from as an artist? What themes and ideas would you say recur throughout or permeate your work?

For the last twelve years I have been braiding together my background in classical ballet, architecture, technology, fashion, science and an embedded fascination with the body. I would say my formative years working at Philips Design (the consumer electronics giants) in a far future design research programme had a formidable impact on me and the evolution of my work.

Director, Clive van Heerden led a robust team dedicated to tracking trends with the view of understanding future lifestyle scenarios twenty years from now. These scenario explorations were often carried out in collaboration with experts and thought leaders in different fields, culminating in a ‘provocation’ designed to spark discussion and debate around new ideas and lifestyle concepts. I was brought in to develop a range of emotional sensing dresses, an electronic tattoo and be the creative lead on an EU project developing stretchable electronics. I would say that I have not strayed far from ‘provoking’, and am continually exploring ways to challenge the limits of the body, be it through a material or by something you swallow.

We’ve enjoyed watching your move into video work over the past months – particularly your Aesop film and Nowness commission. What was it that prompted you to pick up the camera and start creating moving images? Your background is more in object based art and body modification aesthetics right?

I have this curiosity to transform materials and more recently these ‘materials’ continue to ‘transform’ by themselves; so film is an obvious way to capture this movement. I am also convinced that fourteen years of ballet has contributed to this as well! I use my camera like a microscope viewing what I make through a frame; I replay it, see how it behaves, how it can be improved and then archive it. A friend recently said that I was immortalizing my work by documenting it on film. I’d never thought of it like that before, and in many respects she is right.

In my recent film ‘Make Your Maker’ on NOWNESS I sculpted body parts out of jelly; they sweat, melt, go mouldy, decay and then die. When it’s captured on film this sense of an end doesn’t occur. I know there is a lot of research into aging and prolonging life, in Silicon Valley. So perhaps this fascination with immortality is something deeper, rendering in the background?

How did the Reptile Youth film come about and how did it come that you worked with Hyper Island student to create the piece?

For the last three years I have been invited to Hyper Island, to talk with the students, I’m a huge fan! This year I didn’t want to talk I wanted to work, so I suggested we do a workshop. About a month before the workshop, I kept getting pestered by this guy Andreas Lemche, the manager of Reptile Youth, relentless, cheeky and enthusiastically asking me to direct a music video for their new album.

I was up to my eyeballs making human sized jellies and kept saying no. Each time I said no, he came back offering me more things from his house, the best was his 1950’s bright orange scooter! His persistence and banter finally paid off. I suggested using the band in the workshop and it exploded from there.

We had 2.5 days to make all the content from scratch, for a four-minute music video. Working with 37 incredibly talented, motion graphics students, we developed four different worlds inspired by Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompa factory, humoring serious topics like genetic manipulation and designer babies.

The band members flew in for half a day and we captured them on green screen and from there, the students stretched time, working in teams to hand build each world. Like a conveyer belt; as soon as something had been made, it was shot on camera and then the next props were built. We piggy-backed resources, working with whatever we could find; a ceiling fan, a cleaning trolley, window blinds and a photocopy machine, giving ‘motion’ to graphics.

How did you come up with the idea for this video?

The music video entertains the concept that we are all ‘puppets of technology’ trusting the digital to archive our secrets (facebook, etc..). The film opens with a hybrid of a medical journal and design magazine, meant to simulate how parents would thumb through a baby catalogue when gene selecting their perfect child. From there we switch between worlds, building the characters in an incubator, rotating facial expressions and skin types. Mads (the singer) told me that the track, My Yoko Ono, was about finding the perfect girl, imagining each time he met a girl that she would reflect the one he had always imagined. This video has similar parallel ideas about manipulation, seeking perfection and puppetry.

The film has a much more craft driven feel to it than the Aesop film. Do you feel like you’re still experimenting with your aesthetic as a director? Is it exciting to be in this new landscape where your own sense of yourself as an artist is totally open to a redefinition and a new purpose?

I feel like I’m on a discovery of the unexpected. So far it’s led me on a search for beauty in the biological. I guess I’m using science as a way of understanding myself and my work. I get to tell stories through film, mutating the original scientific conditions and offer an alternative world, creating my own series of facts and artistic claims. The evolution of my work is very much impacted by the people I meet. Just recently I have been staying with Dr Sarah Jane Pell, an underwater artist working with astronauts! Who knows where this is going to lead me… up, up and away, I hope.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment that you can tell us about?

I am conducting some experiments in a two-month art residency in Australia. Next week I start a fortnight collaboration with acclaimed choreographer Antony Hamilton, a Chunky Move protege, who makes incredible work. Since directing the ‘Fat Monk’ music video I have been waiting for the right moment to slide back next to the ballet bar. Maybe this is it…!

See a selection of Lucy’s work in Related Content


Lucy McRae