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Bodies in motion. Birds, bees and bobsleighs. What is the force that moves the sun and other stars? Where's our f--king airplane? What's inside Box 808, and why does everybody want it?
Deep within the archives of time-and-motion pioneer Lillian Gilbreth lies a secret. Famous for producing solid light-tracks that captured the path of workers' movements, Gilbreth helped birth the era of mass observation and big data. Did she also, as her broken correspondence with a young Soviet physicist suggests, discover in her final days a 'perfect' movement, one that would 'change everything'?
An international hunt begins for the one box missing from her records, and we follow contemporary motion-capture consultant Mark Phocan, as well as his collaborators and shadowy antagonists, across geo-political fault lines and experimental zones: medical labs, CGI studios, military research centres.... Places where the frontiers of potential - to cure, kill, understand or entertain - are constantly tested and refined.
And all the while, work is underway on the blockbuster film Incarnation, an epic space tragedy. Commercial box-office fodder? Or a sublimely mythical exploration of the animation, contemplation and possession of flesh - ours and others' - traumatised, erotic, beautiful, obscene....
Audacious and mesmeric, The Making of Incarnation weaves a set of stories one inside the other, rings within rings, a perpetual-motion machine. Tom McCarthy peers through the screen, or veil, of technological modernity to reveal the underlying historical and symbolic structures of human experience.