*By Clara Rodríguez Arasanz
Piccinini conceives art as a reflection, criticism and provocation. She creates an artificial and realistic universe at the same time, inhabited by curious beings that embody both human and animal features. They make us consider existential matters such as limits in science or ethics in scientific fields as stem cell investigation, cloning, generic engineering or bioelectronics.
Piccinini plays with the bounds of real and unreal by combining sculpture, illustrations, scenic installations and video. Her work is capable of provoking divergent feelings to one same spectator, going from a terrible repugnance, to the kindest affection.
One of the most famous works of the artist is “Young Family” (2003), in which a strange creature who seems to be a bizarre mixture of different animals suckles three little puppies who cause an inevitable amiability, but, at the same time, a strange repulsive feeling.
Patricia’s work is disturbing, capable to stun anyone, and it allows different free interpretations. For example, “The Embrace” (2005) shows a strange kind of creature, who looks like a young kangaroo hugging a women’s face. This sculpture is open to different interpretations: the lack of affection, of protection, or simple animal aggressiveness. Patricia’s work is only for curious people.
“What I love is when people argue over what the work is trying to say, when they begin the process of examining the issues from a number of perspectives. I love watching a person move from an initial sense of revulsion against the strangeness of my creations towards a sense of understanding or sympathy. I love it when people realize that all this is actually about our lives today”.
Piccinini shows the spectator a possible future reality where these creatures naturally coexist with human beings. She does it by showing everyday scenes where children play and sleep with these beings, as in “Undevided” (2005). The impact of this work is so effective that it is inevitable to think that such situation will be possible someday.
Therefore, the artist does not pretend to show until what point science can advance, or describe science itself either; she wants to show the impact that science development has in society.
“I think my creatures are actually more mythological than scientific. They are chimeras that I construct in order to tell stories that explain the world that I live in but cannot totally understand or control”.
She talks about our attitude towards science, how people react to new technological developments that cannot even understand. So, Patricia Piccinini’s work does not take sides in favour or against scientific development, but it creates debates, and her work has been used as example when debating about new scientific technologies.
“Strangely, I am actually a firm believer in ‘progress’, the world my children will habit will be a better one than it was when I was born. My work is about both the importance and danger of progress. I would never argue against progress, only against the assumptions about what constitutes it”.
Her interest towards science started when she was a teenager and wished that her mother recovered after being ill during many years, but she finally died. “In the end there was no help but I still feel that I am waiting for science to help; to help me, to help my family and to help the world I live in. However, I also know that science is not perfect, no matter how clever it seems to be. Science did not help my mother. I understand that it cannot always deliver its promises”.
From that point on, the artist started paying much more attention to everything that had to do with science. Her work “Protein Lattice” (1997), where we can see a mouse with a big ear that comes out of his back, is based on a TV report she saw where they talked about “tissue engineering” showing a mouse with an ear on his back. According to Piccinini, that technique embodied beautifully “the convergence natural/artificial I was interested in”, showing that curious little mouse who represented a “tragic and heroic” figure, and whose “naturalness” could easily be questioned.
Australian ecology counts with unique and unknown animals in the rest of the world. “Nature’s Little Helpers” (2005) represent a series of “assistant species” whose main objective is preserving Australian species who are in danger of extinction. Piccinini’s work does not talk about the future, but the present. She explains the world and our relationship with species that still do not exist.
She doesn’t tell the spectator what to think, she invites him to do it, to stop being conformist about something that seems to be beyond everything, but out of reach of everyone. “The only thing that I am really certain of is that the world will change, and in ways that we will not be able to fully predict or control”.