Exhibition Project
Becoming Animal, Becoming Human
Animal Perspectives
Patricia Piccinini

Australian artist Patricia Piccinini has devoted many years to dissolving the boundaries between species with the mixing of animal and human bodies and with organic and inorganic hybrids. She even calls Donna Haraway a “sister in technoculture.”

Piccinini’s work reflects how modern biotechnology and virtual media have redefined the relationship between the artificial and natural. In so doing she poses ethical questions with respect to human responsibility toward the technological creations of the life sciences and the environmental changes triggered by humans and examines how we classify life. She often refers directly to the most remarkable reports from science, for example from the field of cloning, stem cell research, the human genome project or research on artificial intelligence.

In her work drawings assume a particularly important role. The original idea and further development of her sculptures and installations are always realized first in a graphic medium. While the objects and videos are at times the work of assistants, the drawings always come from her own hand and frequently confront themes like creation, reproduction, parenthood. Occasionally she depicts scenes of intimate relations between human infants and monstrous hybrids, childlike or adult. Both the girls and boys drawn in her work as well as the strange-looking creatures behave naturally. They play and snuggle with one another, feed each other or operate the same technical gadgets. To all appearances the children bear no prejudices against the non-human entities.

Whether these hybrid creatures are animalized humans or humanized animals cannot be established. Some carry pouches on their backs and are therefore reminiscent of Piccinini’s imaginary “Nature’s little helpers,” creatures bred as surrogate mothers for the endangered Australian wombat (marsupial). Piccinini does not depict a transformational process here but instead the complete normality of an interspecies hybridity which may exist in the not so distant future. Nevertheless a certain troubling feeling remains while examining the drawings: The presence of these foreign creatures suggests a potential danger to these apparently vulnerable children. However, in her work Piccinini always insists on the biological interrelatedness of all living things. The children and the animal-like creatures share the same genetic material, are members of a family. “We are Family,” the title of an installation, depicting similar hybrid creatures in affectionate interaction, derives from this notion.

Jessica Ullrich

Alice (drawing ), 2006, Graphite on paper


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