Letter to the future | Lucy Orta

Inspirational words from a visual artist

To keep spirits high and creativity strong, Polimoda has asked its community of fashion industry experts to write about the future. 

The current pandemic reflects all the disruption that has been accumulating for some time, the consequences of our behavior that has gone too far. It may be an accident, but it’s hardly a surprise. Problems precede epidemics. The relentless destruction of nature has long been one step ahead of this health crisis. Covid-19 will change things; there will be a ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Through this crisis, we are directly experiencing the full acceleration and interdependency of our world. This heightened awareness may lead to changes and the realization that current problems can only be solved collectively and at a planetary level. Time and again, the nonsense of barriers is hindering the solution. Indeed, our work on No Borders lies at the heart of our Antarctica project; it is the prerequisite for seizing a common good, like human health or the climate.

Now, during our confinement, we are even busier than usual. We are driven by a sense of urgency to grasp and respond to global challenges, to accelerate awareness of the interdependency of social and environmental issues, as well as creating a collective change. During this confinement, we are ramping up the digital side of our activities. Together with the University of the Arts London, we are going to animate the digital community of 32,000 holders of the Antarctica World Passport.

The environment got into our work through the social dimension! Once you start exploring the causes of key social issues, as we did for migratory movements at the start of our collaborative work in 1991. We couldn’t fail to notice the growing role of environmental factors in migration. From 1995, the problem of water scarcity soon became one of the themes of our work. Since then, we have worked on almost every possible environmental issue… the decline in biodiversity, food waste, the climate, pollution…

What interests us most is expressing how all these issues depend on each other and linking them to humans. By going to Antarctica with its extreme climate conditions, or to the Amazon, we can approach these challenges from our own sensory experiences.

We aren’t taking cancellations and postponements of exhibitions too badly. With nearly 40 years of creativity under our belts, we prefer to see them as necessary for the transition to a new era. Indeed, we have never been so optimistic!

Lucy Orta

Visual Artist

Orta studied Fashion Knitwear Design in Nottingham, UK, before moving to Paris in 1991. She first gained recognition in the art world for her series ‘Refuge Wear’ and ‘Body Architecture’ (1992–8), which featured structures that modified and fused clothing and survival equipment. Together with her partner Jorge (b.1953), she founded Studio Orta in 1992, and since 2005 they have co-authored work under the name of Lucy + Jorge Orta. With a focus on the body and its environment, their artworks range from modified vehicles to public sculptures and large-scale installations, and in 2007 they received the Green Leaf Award for Sculpture, in recognition of the environmental aspect of their practice. Orta created this work, one of the final ‘Body Architecture’ pieces, for the exhibition ‘Visions of the Body’ at the National Art Museum in Kyoto, Japan. She added sleeve-like garments to the outside of a tent, to which people could join themselves using zips. A metaphor for the social fabric of existence through which everyone is related, the sculpture highlights our inescapable, indispensable interconnectivity, something especially evident in times of crisis and adversity.