Berggruen Institute x Lucy McRae Salon at the Honor Fraser Gallery

December 8, 2022

7pm Honor Fraser Gallery – Los Angeles, CA

Date: Thursday, December 8, 2022

About the Berggruen Institute x Lucy McRae Salon at the Honor Fraser Gallery
The Berggruen Institute is pleased to present a by-invitation-only Salon featuring the work of filmmaker and body architect Lucy McRae in December at the Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles.

McRae’s solo show, through film, fashion, and other media, suggests that we propose radical new modes of kin-making. Babies that can be designed and grown, CRISPR technology that can edit genes, and off-Earth environments are future-facing phenomena that are challenging previous concepts of family, gender, and the body. She will be in conversation with Northwestern Assistant Professor of computer science, chemical & biological engineering, and mechanical engineering Sam Kriegman whose lab evolves, builds, grows, develops, breeds, trains, and teaches robots. Associate Director of the Future Humans theme Claire Isabel Webb will moderate a discussion of how scientific and artistic questions about what counts as “life” are remaking the category of “the human.”

About the Speakers
Lucy McRae, Science Fiction Artist
A world-acclaimed science fiction artist and body architect, Lucy McRae considers how human biology might be augmented by a mixture of physical design, modification of genes, and emotions –– technology transforming the body. Lucy McRae leads a multi-disciplinary, artist-research studio investigating the impact future technologies have on human evolution. Boldly staring down the status quo, the studio pioneers a new story for how future technologies will fundamentally alter human intimacy, reproduction, spirituality, biology, and wellness culture — shining a light on the ethical implications of genetic engineering. Based in Los Angeles, Lucy is a visiting professor at the architecture school SCI_Arc, and a World Economic Forum, Young Global Leader, and TED Fellow.

Sam Kriegman, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Chemical & Biological Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University
Sam Kriegman is an assistant professor of computer science, chemical and biological engineering, and mechanical engineering at Northwestern University. His research seeks general theories of life, in which the details of carbon-based organisms would represent a special case. As we have yet to invent a time machine or the means of interstellar travel, Sam and his students design, build and breed robotic lifeforms to catch a glimpse of life as it may have arisen here on Earth or as it might exist elsewhere in the universe. Most recently, this led to the discovery of a previously unknown (kinematic) form of biological reproduction.

Sam received his PhD in computer science and the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from the University of Vermont in 2020. He conducted postdoctoral research in the biology department at Tufts University and Harvard University. An AI2050 Fellow and Cozzarelli Prize recipient, his creation of the world’s first computer-designed organisms (the “xenobots”; together with his three co-authors) has enjoyed widespread media attention, added a new word to the dictionary, and was displayed as an exhibit at the Design Museum in London.

Claire Webb, Associate Director, Future Humans, Berggruen Institute
Claire Isabell Webb, Ph.D. is a historian and anthropologist of science and the Associate Director of the Future Humans Theme at the Berggruen Institute. Webb researches the history of the search for life beyond Earth beginning in the late 1950s, and how that quest has shifted the boundaries, conditions, and thresholds of concepts we call liveliness, intelligence, species, and consciousness. Her work asks, how do technologies of perception of the extraterrestrial— space telescopes that by which scientists seek to apprehend biosignatures of exoplanetary atmospheres, radio telescopes that might be tools to detect evidence of alien technology — inflect what it means to be human, on Earth? At the Berggruen Institute, Webb is developing experimental initiatives around the futures of life, mind, and outer space. These initiatives convene philosophers, scientists, and artists to collaborate on projects that tug together current knowledge about life to speculative philosophies of what life will become.

Future Sensitive, Honor Fraser Gallery
Image – Lucy McRae, Future Sensitive Family, 2022 Mixed media 145 x 91 x 72 inches
Photo Josh White Studio


About Future Sensitive
Future Sensitive at Honor Fraser gallery explores the universe of sci-fi artist and ‘body architect’ Lucy McRae, whose science fiction works explore gene editing, human intimacy, and tangible science fiction. Lucy McRae’s genre bending, science fiction films and installations gesture to a speculative, not-so-distant future where advanced genetic engineering will enable humans to be grown in laboratories outside of the womb. Her exhibition at Honor Fraser gallery spotlights McRae’s dynamic capacity for world-building and brings together a selection of her recent projects to ask how future technologies of design will fundamentally alter entrenched notions of human intimacy, reproduction, spirituality, and wellness. Can our technologies be more than a quick fix, and instead help us find strength in our imperfections? Can sensitivity be a guiding principle as we dream about the future? Future Sensitive cultivates these questions and asks us to trust in the unknown as we pioneer new aesthetics, new stories, and new ways of being together in the world.

About the Honor Fraser Gallery
Honor Fraser (b. United Kingdom) is the founder of Honor Fraser Gallery in Culver City, California. She moved to the west coast in 1998 to attend the University of Southern California. Upon graduating, she worked for Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills before opening a project space near Venice Beach in 2008. Throughout her career, Fraser has represented emerging and established artists, as well as mounted thematic group exhibitions and art historical surveys with artists such as Miriam Schapiro, Howardena Pindell, Morris Louis, and Andy Warhol. In 2019, Fraser began to move away from the traditional models of gallery/artist representation, and redirected gallery resources towards more experimental, interdisciplinary, and project-based exhibitions. Today the gallery works with local and international artists, curators, and scholars to foster alternative perspectives on traditional art practices, and to examine our cultural entanglement with emerging technologies. Fraser is involved with organizations benefiting education and the arts.

About the Berggruen Institute
The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop foundational ideas and shape political, economic, and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, we bring together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to explore fundamental questions of our time. Our objective is enduring impact on the progress and direction of societies around the world. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, strengthened the ballot initiative process in California, and launched Noema, a new publication that brings thought leaders from around the world together to share ideas. In addition, the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award, is conferred annually by an independent jury to a thinker whose ideas are shaping human self-understanding to advance humankind.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.