These pictures make me want to barf… in the good way. The disturbed, electric-skinned, light-headed, border of nausea kind of way. I tried to file these images away and forget them, but they keep slinking their way back into my mind. Into that hard to shake place right behind your eyes where views of car accidents and starving African babies and liposuction operations go. The kind where your conscious mind doesn’t want to be grossed out but the deeper reaches of your brain know that you’ve seen something important, and so you shouldn’t forget it, and so it won’t let you. When you close your eyes, you remember them even more furiously. These are images that challenge you to keep looking at them. In fact, they dare you to turn away…
“Lucyandbart” is a collaboration between artists Lucy McRae and Bart Hess. In it they imagine human bodies and faces physically altered with a shocking but artistic realism. Globules of foam, asymmetric spines… fascinating and repugnant simultaneously, the pictures become even more disturbing because they don’t hint at the emotional state of the subject. Each transformed human looks blankly back at you, neither horrified or surprised or excited about their change of form, but merely present and allowing it to be shown to you. I guess it’s that sort of lucid acceptance, clearly not hiding the kind of imperfections and oddities that society mostly trains us to be ashamed of, that make staring at these “mutants” even more unnerving.
There’s something so primal and immediate about seeing human bodies mutated. It calls into questions all of our ideals about beauty and they way we judge people based on their surfaces. This odd sort of artistic mingling – where the colours are beautiful, but the shapes are grotesque – is really jarring. Or maybe it’s the way they seem to know something about their aberrations that we don’t. Like we’ve yet to have any idea the kind of powers that lie inside their new bodies and hands and faces, and as long as we judge them we never will.
The greater question, are these mutations or evolutions? Are these people improved or impeded? And would we willingly put ourselves into their shoes or chose to remain the same… if we had a choice?
You can check out a great interview with Bart Hess at one of the world’s best modern art sites, We Make Money Not Art. Lucy McRae, amongst other projects, also has a beautiful video detailing her ‘Skin Probe Dress’, in conjunction with Philips Design Probe: wearable creations that “explore the space between the body and the near environment by conceiving dresses that blush and shiver”.