Lucy McRae


The Institute of Isolation


What happens on a mission to Mars when four people are travelling for decades in a very, very small space? What physiological and mental impacts will these harsh environments have on the bodies of those who spend more permanent time in space?

The Institute of Isolation is an observational documentary that contemplates whether isolation, or extreme experience, might be used as a gateway to training human resilience.Set in a near future reality, The Institute of Isolation is a fictional research and training ground, offering alternative methods to condition the body and adapt fundamental aspects of human biology. The film references genetic engineering, space travel, sensory deprivation and the changing relationship the body is forming with technology. If the body can be resolved in an environment of isolation, would we be more resilient, faster to adapt and more buoyant when faced with the obstacles of life beyond Earth’s edge?

The film’s protagonist (played by artist Lucy McRae) moves through a series of sensory chambers, spending time in an anechoic chamber examining the psychoacoustics of silence, and in a microgravity trainer conditioning the body for possible life in space. These fictional locations are used to make architectural inquiries into the role buildings could have on altering human biology on an evolutionary scale.

The Institute of Isolation was commissioned by Ars Electronica and SPARKS with the support of Kew Gardens.

4 channel video work, custom sound seat

duration 3:30 mins

Lucy McRae is a sci-fi artist, film director and body architect, placing the human body in complex, futuristic scenarios that confound the boundaries between the natural and artificial. Trained in classical ballet and interior design, her approach is to influence culture by exploring scientific breakthroughs relating to health and the human body, while providing a feminine point of view on emerging technology.

McRae’s award-winning science fiction artworks have been developed in collaboration with leading institutes including NASA, MIT and Ars Electronica. Her work has been exhibited at the London Science Museum, Centre Pompidou and the Venice Biennale. McRae has consulted with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Intel and Aesop on the cultural impacts that emerging technologies will have on future lifestyles. She has also spoken and taught masterclasses on these themes at events around the world including TED Talks, WIRED Health, the Royal College of Art, Central St Martins, RMIT University, and most recently at MIT’s Being Material conference in 2017.

Top: Photo by Julian Love © the artist. Bottom: Still from video © the artist.