Arts Concert Music Review Singapore

Review: Delicate Spells of Mind by Lucy McRae (SIFA 2022)

Unveiling the mysteries of the inner mind.

If you could look into your mind, what would you see? In her short film Delicate Spells of Mind, British-born, Australian science fiction artist Lucy McRae imagines the inner workings of the human mind as anthropomorphised creatures working as part of an operating system, and invites you to take a closer look.

Commissioned for the 2022 Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA), Delicate Spells of Mind sees McRae playing the Self/Seeker, an entity inventing methods to minimise emotional damage, utilising a massive dashboard of buttons, switches and flashing lights to pre-meditate best outcomes and avoid pain. Meanwhile, dancers wearing inoperable motion capture suits play the ‘Other’, an entire committee that functions as a single organism, moving and travelling in search of something.

In the film, we find ourselves in a space that seems like an abandoned warehouse, reappropriated by McRae and her team to perform in. As an ‘operating system’, the space becomes some kind of elaborate machine, like a close-monitored factory. It feels claustrophobic as McRae weaves her way down the corridors, silhouettes of the ‘Other’ appear on the other side of translucent windows, pressing up as if seeking to capture her.

With a one-track mind, McRae clambers her way through the warehouse, constantly hindered by the ‘Other’, who grab her legs to slow her down, or engaging in a literal tug-of-war. We imagine that in wanting to carve out her own path, societal norms pressure her into conforming, the music pulsating and creating tension in the air. It is in these times that one has to put one’s foot down and take charge, which McRae does as the Self, rearranging the ‘Other’ to fit her needs.

What then seems to happen is a process of reprogramming, as both McRae and the Other regress into primal beings, recalibrating and re-learning how to relate to one another. There is a tenderness to their interactions, from scenes of them huddling together, or racing as they ride each other’s backs like horses. It is as if are children, and are establishing new rules on how to have these mass of thoughts coexisting in one mind.

Eventually, they do seem to sync up, and a single shot of them all lying together, bare-bodied and without the motion capture suits, suggests that they have successfully found equilibrium and a new order. In the final scene, we see McRae in a tub, labelled with ‘past’, ‘present’, ‘future’ and ‘far future’. As she spins, in a flash, we see her regress into a smaller, child-like version of herself, and perhaps indicates that we must put these complex adult thoughts aside, if we are to find peace with our inner selves.

the final scene sees lycy spinning around a tub with past present future far future, abruptly shifts to a child in the same tub – a cycle?

By the end of the film, Delicate Spells of Mind invites us to ponder over what it means to have a healthy mind, and delivers a visually intriguing interpretation of what it might be like to cleanse our thoughts, clear our head, and take control of our mental state. And by acknowledging the need to do so, we begin the delicate process of recovery, and learning to accept ourselves as we are.

Delicate Spells of Mind runs till 10th July 2022 as part of the 2022 Singapore International Festival of Arts. More information available here

SIFA 2022 runs from 20th May to 5th June 2022. Tickets and more information available from

1 comment on “Review: Delicate Spells of Mind by Lucy McRae (SIFA 2022)

  1. Pingback: SIFA 2022 Wrap-up: The Anatomy of Performance – Ritual – Bakchormeeboy

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