TED2012

Lucy McRae: How can technology transform the human body?

Filmed:

TED Fellow Lucy McRae is a body architect -- she imagines ways to merge biology and technology in our own bodies. In this visually stunning talk, she shows her work, from clothes that recreate the body's insides for a music video with pop-star Robyn, to a pill that, when swallowed, lets you sweat perfume.

- Body architect
Trained as a classical ballerina and architect, Lucy McRae is fascinated by the human body, and how it can be shaped by technology. Full bio

I call myself a body architect.
00:12
I trained in classical ballet
00:15
and have a background in architecture and fashion.
00:16
As a body architect, I fascinate with the human body
00:19
and explore how I can transform it.
00:22
I worked at Philips Electronics
00:25
in the far-future design research lab,
00:28
looking 20 years into the future.
00:30
I explored the human skin, and how technology can transform the body.
00:32
I worked on concepts like an electronic tattoo,
00:36
which is augmented by touch,
00:40
or dresses that blushed and shivered with light.
00:42
I started my own experiments.
00:45
These were the low-tech approaches to the high-tech conversations I was having.
00:48
These are Q-tips stuck to my roommate with wig glue.
00:52
(Laughter)
00:56
I started a collaboration with a friend of mine, Bart Hess --
00:59
he doesn't normally look like this --
01:03
and we used ourselves as models.
01:05
We transformed our apartments into our laboratories,
01:08
and worked in a very spontaneous and immediate way.
01:11
We were creating
01:14
visual imagery provoking human evolution.
01:17
Whilst I was at Philips, we discussed this idea of a maybe technology,
01:19
something that wasn't either switched on or off, but in between.
01:24
A maybe that could take the form of a gas or a liquid.
01:27
And I became obsessed with this idea of blurring the perimeter of the body,
01:30
so you couldn't see where the skin ended and the near environment started.
01:34
I set up my studio in the red-light district
01:38
and obsessively wrapped myself in plumbing tubing,
01:41
and found a way to redefine the skin
01:44
and create this dynamic textile.
01:47
I was introduced to Robyn, the Swedish pop star,
01:49
and she was also exploring
01:54
how technology coexists with raw human emotion.
01:56
And she talked about how technology with these new feathers,
01:59
this new face paint, this punk, the way that we identify with the world,
02:02
and we made this music video.
02:05
I'm fascinated with the idea
02:07
of what happens when you merge biology with technology,
02:10
and I remember reading about this idea of being able to reprogram
02:13
biology, in the future, away from disease and aging.
02:17
And I thought about this concept of,
02:20
imagine if we could reprogram
02:22
our own body odor, modify and biologically enhance it,
02:24
and how would that change the way that we communicate with each other?
02:28
Or the way that we attract sexual partners?
02:31
And would we revert back to being more like animals,
02:34
more primal modes of communication?
02:36
I worked with a synthetic biologist,
02:38
and I created a swallowable perfume,
02:41
which is a cosmetic pill that you eat
02:44
and the fragrance comes out through the skin's surface when you perspire.
02:47
It completely blows apart the way that perfume is,
02:51
and provides a whole new format.
02:55
It's perfume coming from the inside out.
02:56
It redefines the role of skin, and our bodies become an atomizer.
02:59
I've learned that there's no boundaries,
03:02
and if I look at the evolution of my work
03:06
i can see threads and connections that make sense.
03:08
But when I look towards the future,
03:12
the next project is completely unknown and wide open.
03:14
I feel like I have all these ideas existing embedded inside of me,
03:17
and it's these conversations and these experiences
03:21
that connect these ideas, and they kind of instinctively come out.
03:24
As a body architect,
03:30
I've created this limitless and boundless platform
03:32
for me to discover whatever I want.
03:34
And I feel like I've just got started.
03:36
So here's to another day at the office.
03:39
(Laughter) (Applause)
03:42
Thank you!
03:45
Thank you!
03:48

▲Back to top

About the Speaker:

Lucy McRae - Body architect
Trained as a classical ballerina and architect, Lucy McRae is fascinated by the human body, and how it can be shaped by technology.

Why you should listen
Lucy McRae is an artist who straddles the worlds of fashion, technology and the body. Trained as a classical ballerina and architect, her work – which is inherently fascinated with the human body – involves inventing and building structures on the skin that reshape the human silhouette. Her provocative and often grotesquely beautiful imagery suggests a new breed: a future human archetype existing in an alternate world. The media call her an inventor; friends call her a trailblazer. Either way, Lucy relies on instinct to evolve an extraordinary visual path that is powerful, primal and unique.
More profile about the speaker
Lucy McRae | Speaker | TED.com