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“Plan B: a population bomb,” begins Anne Hathaway. She’s dressed in a lab coat, busily opening drawers and doing NASA things. “Within 30 years, we could have a colony of hundreds,” she explains. It was purely a coincidence that I watched Christopher Nolan’s rendering of a post-Earth eventuality, Interstellar (2014), last week, right before encountering Lucy McRae’s solo exhibition Future Sensitive at Honor Fraser.
Future Sensitive focuses on a similar, but more imminent, fate than Nolan’s film. Comprising soft sculptures, immersive installations, and three short science fiction films, McRae (a filmmaker and self-titled “body architect”1) presents possibilities for adapting to the near future. She simulates a speculative world so convincing in its functionality that one can’t help but anticipate it.
In this impending reality, genetic engineering has cracked the code for growing humans in laboratories, sans womb. With this advancement in mind, McRae offers sensitive and sustainable low-tech solutions for the design constraints of the human body. The artist adorns herself and her futuristic subjects with inspired uniforms in shades of mustard, brown, and taupe, reaching for familiar survival and camping materials like tarps, wheels, and blow-up rafts—as seen in Solitary Survival Raft (2017), a big orange flotation device that hums at the center of a darkened room, illuminated by the groupthink-y film, Delicate Spells of Mind (2022), which plays in front of it.
McRae also repurposes less obvious items to address the lack of human intimacy in her approaching world. Insulation and foam mimic the comfort of closeness in Future Sensitive Family: yoga, biker, prosthetic, survivor (2022), an installation that features four padded “futurekin” (lab-grown people)—depicted as soft, life-size mannequins—enclosed by yellow netting. In the photograph Post-Apocalyptic Sherpa (2019), which depicts a person wearing a padded, full-body getup, the subject’s gear looks at first like it is intended for cold climates. But the clothing tag hanging from the corner of the work’s frame informs us that even those born outside of the womb crave the sensation of being enveloped, describing the outfit as a “mental health machine for gene-edited or lab-grown offspring” that, it says, “mediates nurturing through full body contact compression.”
McRae appears in all three of the exhibition’s films, each exploring human connection. The subjects in Futurekin and Delicate Spells of Mind (both works 2022) are seen in various states of productivity and ambiguous urgency. Set against reimagined gymnasiums and locker rooms, they participate in synchronized movements that sometimes feel like instinctive caretaking, and other times, like a never-ending interpretive dance routine that resembles the labored chaos of splitting atoms. Their movements involve vulnerability and collaboration, and the performers’ urgent focus suggests that both are necessary for survival.
Future Sensitive pushes past binary theories (like plans A or B) about what’s in store for us. Instead, the artist posits an amorphous, still-forming future that harkens back to the community-oriented ingenuity of the human spirit in order to overcome the limitations that lab-grown people will face in a post-womb world. Rather than imagining ideal scenarios, McRae’s work accepts messier potentialities, harnessing human vulnerabilities as valuable, transferable tools, now, while they’re still familiar.
Lucy McRae: Future Sensitive runs from October 1–December 17, 2022 at (2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034).