Sep 15, 2011

PROFILE | Patricia Piccinini

4. Foundlingsilicone, human hair, polyester, nylon, wool, glass, and plastic, 2008

Percy Bysshe Shelley once said, “Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but mutability!” What he meant is that we can always free ourselves from unhappiness through mutability. Humans are completely changeable. Patricia Piccinini’s artwork relates to this quote because the majority of her art narrates how humans and animals are being transformed into creatures of genetic alteration. Piccinini’s foundation comes from genetic mutations, biological abnormalities, and the scientific foundations of beauty; which is different from most contemporary artists. Her work draws a thin line between art and science, leaving her viewers thinking what could happen to the human race as we continue to experiment with new scientific knowledge.

Piccinini looks at genetic engineering as an alternative of observing row upon row of pearly smiling gold-medalist, she sees mutant marsupials and rodents with one ear too many according to her website Piccinini insists that we must still take responsibility for those outcomes should they arise and understand that not all the benefits are worth it because sometimes unpleasant outcomes happen like Dolly the cloned sheep. But as much as she points to the possible troubles that new technologies might bring, and the way that they might interrupt our very perception of what signifies civilization, Piccinini never judges those ‘problems’ or ‘disruptions’ as themselves capable. Picinini’s main focus of work is on babies and like all babies these cry out for us to care for them. Piccinini also has love for her creations and feels like society should stop racially based discrimination against those who are not “normal” and to find room in our hearts for the fleshy, moist, mostly hairless, ecological underachiever who wouldn’t exist at all except for the hubris of the biotech industry.  Her work is not ironic at all because she is sincere and affectionate toward her work and loves each instillation like it was her own offspring and by creating this race from some bizarre universe she is displaying an extraordinary faith in human nature.

In the last twenty years Patricia Piccinini has become one of the most well known Australian Contemporary artists and even represented Australia in the 2003 Venice Biennial. Piccinini graduated from the Australian National University with a degree in Art and Economic History as well as the Victorian College of Arts with a degree in Art and painting. She works with a range of different media including painting, sculpture, video, sound, and digital prints.

Patricia Piccinini, Young Family, silicon, acrylic, human hair, and timber, 2002-3
 Patricia Piccinini’s instillation Young Family was made in 2002. It is composed of acrylic, silicone, human hair, and leather. The primary color is brownish beige like the color of actual human skin tones. The installation has many curvilinear lines from the wrinkles on her face and on the backs of her pups to the way her bodies curves and balls up around her babies. This creature is making direct eye contact to her viewers that gives a sinister feeling that we should understand the pain and suffering she has been through. One of the pups is even looking up at its mother just like an actual child would do if it were with his or her mother. The human hair on the mothers back and arms makes this instillation even more realistic and the leathery skin makes her appear to be old and worn out, whether it be from child birth or what the scientists have done to her in experiments. The mother and her pups are properly proportioned and appropriately scaled in relationship to each other, which is both subjective and cultural. There is an implied motion in her pups as the three are drinking her for nutrients and the fifth pup is playfully looking up at its mother while lying on its back like it could roll over any second.  

Her instillation is representing a pig with human arms and legs nursing her young and the same emotions appear on the face of the pig a first time mother would have such as maternal anxiety. Despite the fact that she is a new mother she still looks old and worn down. Her expression is tired, world-weary and patient, and somehow profoundly sad. Piccinini is also showing how motherhood no matter what species is always a miracle and is universal. Piccinini is suggesting that there is no longer a boundary between humans and animals, and also she has intended to make her viewers stop and think about how far people are willing to take our want for the perfect human image. She wants us to consider where to draw the line between eradicating genes associated with heredity diseases and creating designer humans because if the genetic experiments fail, who is going to be responsible and bear the consequences. The test subjects have to live with being extremely mutated and forbidding or they could possibly even end up dead, while the experimenter continues on without feeling bad about his treatment to the animals or humans.

Patricia Piccinini’s greater body of work relates to Young Family because her work concentrates on mapping the human genome, stem cells, and the growth of human tissue and organs. Her art charts a terrain in which scientific progress and ethical questions are intertwined. From artificial landscapes to synthetic life forms, Piccinini creates a vision of a world where fiction and fantasy co-exist. You can tell from her work that she is asking the question what represents the real from the make believe and if the body can be unmade and remade again through technology and knowledge then what insinuations does this have for our identity as human beings. In recent decades, the natural and the artificial have merged and become omnipresent that it has passed up by almost overlooked. Piccinini’s most recent projects broaden her curiosity directly into the realm of artificial life forms, as well as stem cell and cloning technologies. Piccinini’s most controversial works such as The Long awaited, Undivided, and Leather Landscape relate children to her fantasy world and show how children are not afraid of the unusual creatures as much as adults are. In her instillations with children she creates then as old, experimented on kids with still the natural curiosity any other child would have. In many ways, Piccinini’s work seeks to engendered love. It is interesting to look at her works and although you feel different about them, like they are invaders from another planet, all of her work has an adorable and loving nature that is appealing and inviting. Piccinini’s work in which she focuses on the living things all have the human characteristics of motherly love, warmth, friendliness, and inquisitiveness.

-Anna Julian

1 comment:

  1. These pieces are fascinating and kinda scary at the same time. They remind me of older movies when they actually used animatronics instead of CGI. The detail and time it took to make these is something to really enjoy and appreciate.

    - Matthew Jones