vol 29 no 1, 2009
Art and time have much in common including the fact that they are both very hard to pin down. Art seems to have the ability to freeze or stretch time; it is a medium for imagining future scenarios and retrieving the past. Philosophical notions of time such as the non-specific dimension of Aboriginal Dreamtime are explored by Ian McLean and teleportation by Melentie Pandilowski. In a special section commissioned by Ben Eltham, authors investigate microtime, deep time, duration itself as a subject of art, together with things that decay over time or relate to memory or death. Ulanda Blair surveys the Yokohama Triennial and its theme Time Crevasse. A major essay by Laurence Simmons places the moving image 'time slice' work of Daniel Crooks in the context of the 19th Century science which first captured movement on film. Adrian Martin explores the parallel careers of filmmakers Victor Erice (Spain) and Abbas Kiarostami (Iran). Other features include Stephanie Radok on the currency of Aboriginal art, Djon Mundine on ethical dilemmas for prize judges and curators and Lucas Ihlein on Donald Brook's new book The Awful Truth about What Art Is.
Subscribe to Artlink - from $55. Subscriptions available for readers anywhere in the world.
A little boy with short, brown hair wearing riding boots, corduroy trousers and a long sleeved blue/grey top sits on a bench, his feet barely touching the ground. The boy is asleep; his head rests on his companion, an oversized naked creature cradled in his little arms. The creature, asleep, head resting on the boy's lap, is elderly; its strands of hair are long, wispy and grey, deep wrinkles crease its face and body, its pores are clogged and its sallow skin sags. The creature appears as a cross between a mermaid-like, alien animal with a hairy mane leading to a long tail that ends in a webbed foot and unkempt toenails, and an artificial human, with primate-like cranial features, breasts with nipples, arms and a belly-button. It is amazingly life-like and the detail is incredible; one would swear that the creature is slowly breathing. What we are witnessing here is a private, intimate moment between a boy and a hyper-real creature, where difference has given way to tenderness, companionship and a sense of belonging. This silicon and fibreglass sculpture, titled 'The Long Awaited' (2008), is one of the many highlights of Patricia Piccinini's recent absorbing solo exhibition entitled Related Individuals.
View Larger Image
Patricia PiccininiFoundling 2008, silicone, human hair, polyester, nylon, wool, glass, plastic, 37 x 66 x 41cm. Plinth dimensions: 50 x 80 x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Piccinini, who lives and works in Melbourne, is known both in Australia and internationally for her critique of what is natural and artificial in the current world of digital and technological phenomena, as seen in previous installations such as 'Truck Babies' and 'We Are Family' which was exhibited in the Australian pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Her sculpture, photography, video and installations interrogate world issues such as biogenetics and cloning, bioethics, consumer culture, artifice and nature, in particular how these ideas are subtly changing our society. Piccinini has an uncanny way of anthropomorphising inanimate materials and objects into surreal, life-like creatures and genetically modified beings that subvert our perception of what is possible in this world. In describing her practice, she states: 'I am interested in the way that contemporary biotechnology and even philosophy erode the traditional boundaries between the artificial and the natural, as well as between species and even the basic distinctions between animal and human.'
Related Individuals continues this artistic pursuit with a new freshness and vigour. Gone are any photographic works, and instead the viewer is left with 'not quite animal' bronze skulls, three standout silicon and fibreglass sculptures and a short, poignant video. The bronze pieces are an extension and continuation of Piccinini's interest in the permeability of various boundaries in the contemporary world. 'Not Quite Animal' ('Transgenic Skull for The Young Family') (2008) provides an alternative to Piccinini's fleshy silicon sculptures. Here, she has created an anatomically accurate cranial form, an internal skeleton structure that teeters on the precipice of being human and being animal, and so what is uncanny is also unbelievably familiar in a completely natural manner. The skull in itself is also loaded with meaning and history, life and death, mortality and the transience of life as well as religion, gothic cultures and the occult.
The 'Foundling' (2008), a baby made out of silicon and human hair, lies off to the side of the main gallery space. The abandoned child is nestled underneath a baby blanket inside a well-worn bassinet; its legs appear cramped and bent in order to fit. The foundling's head is covered by a woollen knitted beanie to keep it warm, and tufts of thin brown hair protrude outwards. The foundling's vulnerable eyes are larger than life, disproportionate to its face, and they stare up at the viewer pleading for attention and begging to be nurtured. The creature's facial features are strange and yet familiar; ears, nose and mouth are distorted and elongated. The creature is somewhat tragic – a newborn baby that appears drastically aged, tired and wrinkled. One wonders how long it has been left in its bassinet.
The video on display in the adjacent second gallery space, titled 'The Gathering' (2007), conveys the story, set in a residential home on a suburban street, of several furry organisms encroaching around a sleeping girl, who is lying on the floor of a bedroom, wearing a pink and purple tracksuit and little sneakers. The organisms have reddish/ pink orifices that open and reveal amoebic-like forms inside – a distinct contrast to the serene placidity of the girl quietly sleeping. The soundtrack to this video is clever; transcendental beats lull the viewer into a soporific state, and mimic the rhythmic movements of the species bopping along the floor toward the girl. Just as in 'The Long Awaited', the human girl and the alien-like blobs seem perfectly at ease with one another. Piccinini's point is suitably reinforced – we are all related individuals.
Subscribe to the Artlink newsletter now
Articles in this issue
- Artrave: Artrave
- Book review: Brook's way with kinds, categories and memes
- Editorial: Editorial
- Feature: About visual imagery, intuition, and teleportation
- Feature: Conference of the birds, the trees, the waves, Correspondences: Victor Erice and Abbas Kiarostami
- Feature: Daniel Crooks: the future of the past
- Feature: dreamTime
- Feature: Introduction to ten essays commissioned by Ben Eltham
- Feature: Joe Felber: Moments of time
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Art and the abyss: Manipulations of time at the 2008 Yokohama Triennale
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Atomic Clock: microtime of the molecular and good old-fashioned molar beer
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Crystalline signs of the small and poetic
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Enduring duration
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Ghost in the backyard
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Life and times: Eternal wake in three chapters
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: OK with my decay: Encounters with chronology
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: On talking walls
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Planning for deep time: Nuclear monuments and Aboriginal art
- Feature - commissioned by Ben Eltham: Time and motion studies: Twin strategies
- Polemic: Keep your eyes on the prize: Hold on, Aboriginal art competitions, ethical dilemmas and mining companies
- Polemic: The ethnographic present: Aboriginal art today - the gift that keeps on giving
- Preview: Avoiding myth and message: Australian artists and the literary world
- Preview: Jeffrey Smart: The question of portraiture
- Review: Better Places
- Review: Contemporary Australia: Optimism
- Review: Discord: Art from MONA
- Review: Girls, Girls, Girls
- Review: Gooch's Utopia: collected works from the Central Desert
- Review: Lockhart River 'Old Girls'
- Review: Open Air: Portraits in the landscape
- Review: Passage
- Review: Patricia Piccinini: Related Individuals
- Review: Rosalie Gascoigne
- Review: Silver Artrage 25
- Review: The Christmas Tree Bucket: Trent Parke's Family Album
- Review: Trades