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Australia – Patricia Piccinini
Patricia Piccinini is probably one of the best examples of how a visual artist responds to rapid technological developments. She explores the aspects of modern science and technology through her sculptures, photographs and video installations. Reactionary artists’ inspirations often come from the events that change the world around them be it war, genetic engineering research, the urbanization of spaces, psychological disorders due to a faster speed of life…
Patricia Piccinini has gained most recognition for her work that relates to medical technology development - topics like genetic engineering and mutations. The artist’s work examines human responsibility in altering natural and artificial universe but it doesn’t judge this responsibility, it only shows the infinity of outcomes; perversion of good intentions of the aspect of Improving. As Peter Hennessey referred to Piccinini’s Biosphere work: ”[these are] snapshots of a world that might exist”, a world that is quite disturbing, a Sci-fi lab experiment that has (perhaps) gone askew.
In order to understand where Patricia Piccinini’s work comes from, it is important to examine where she started and how she became an artist that now draws thousands of people to current exhibitions. Patricia Piccinini earlier work has been divided the body of her work into two categories: Atmosphere and Autosphere.
In most of the Atmosphere work Piccinini dealt with technological invasion / development into the natural such as a natural plane – a body of water of a synthetic sea or plastic plants -- or a microsystem, such as the inside of animal lungs. In Atmosphere you could see work such as a series of video stills depicting an ocean horizon presented on a number of TV screens – similar image, synthetic and surreal in its colours and the mode it was presented -- or a series video stills showing the process of breathing (Breathing Room) that meant to examine panic attacks that often happen to modern city-dweller because of the expectancies of the modern world and its speed.
The second category of the series of work was Autoshpere where Piccinini mostly examined the influence of technology on the developing world and its strange trends such as in the work called Car Nuggets which the artist calls ”lumps of carness”. They are the ”essence of car” and are 3-D digital art images of delicately technological yet very organic in their actual form, chicken nuggets-like shapes. Another example of Autosphere work was Sex Dog, a digitally manipulated image of a dog that has grown two, pornographic, silicone human breasts.
Finally, there’s Biosphere. This is the most challenging body of Piccinini’s art. A number of exhibitions shows bizarre, often humanoid creatures, rodents with human ears growing out of their backs, naked models sitting on the floor and surrounded by a sea of these ear-ridden rodents, Stepford wives holding bizarre little dolls, 3-D ”insights” into the internal organs – as well as cancerous-like growths -- of humanoid-like heads or disturbingly children-like bodies.
Then there’s Biosphere’s We are Family, probably one of Piccinini’s most successful shows. One of the displays is a sculpture of a human toddler, smiling gently and looking somewhere into the space. Right next to it, there’s a humanoid creature, four-legged yet with an obvious ability to eventually be able to stand on its hinder legs. The creature has a long face, a long nose, small mouth and big, coal-black and life-like wet big, round eyes. The creature is flesh-coloured with some scarce hair on its back. It is shyly approaching the toddler who doesn’t pay any attention to it, in that moment. The creature is not scary-looking despite its obvious mutation or -- some may argue -- monstrosity. The creature is almost pitiful-looking. Apologetic, cute.
And this is one of the examples that summarizes so well Piccinini’s artistic intent. She sees beauty in mutations and she wants the viewer to be aware of their existence even though they do seem to co-exist with the ugly (an unexpected outcome). Piccinini lets the viewer have his own reaction to the art work and choose to be either disturbed or sympathetic… or both. Whatever the viewer ends up feeling about Piccinini’s monsters is his own responsibility; coincidently just as artificially created universes – such as genetic engineering experiments -- gone right or wrong are human responsibilities too.