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5 August – Patricia Piccinini: We Are Connected at the ArtScience Museum

In its latest exhibition the ArtScience Museum presents (in collaboration with the Institute for Culture Exchange), Patricia Piccinini: We Are Connected.

It’s an utterly fascinating show, one that’s creepy and grotesque but also full of fierce emotion and strength. There are works here about xenotransplantation (i.e. the growing of human organs in other species) and sculptures of chimeras that blend features of animals and humans. As the artist Patricia Piccinini explains, “It is hard to tell when the ‘human-ness’ starts and the ‘animal-ness’ ends.. and that is the point.” 

This show marks the Australian artist’s first major solo showcase in Southeast Asia, bringing together more than 40 significant artworks forged at the intersection of art and science.

We won’t spoil the surprise because the installations here are really breathtaking — so here’s just a very no small selection of what’s on display. The show opens today (5 August 2022) and runs all the way till 29 Jan 2023. 

Patricia Piccinini at the press preview. Here, she tells us about her perceptions of orang utans, commenting that “Orang utan are called ‘forest people’ not forest ‘beasts.’ The humans who have lived with them gave them a name that says something different (from their ‘animal-ness’).
The show opens with this 2018 work, Kindred, which invites visitors to shift their focus from the differences to the connections and similarities they share with other living creatures.
The artist with her work The Bond, 2016 – a piece that unveils the profound and ambiguous maternal relationship between a human and transgenic child within the contemporary world.
The Welcome Guest is a 2011 work displaying an emotional connection between a sloth-like figure with impractical claws and a fearless girl. In this work, Piccinini reflects on the beauty and strangeness of nature. The artist states that she is often struck by how bizarre and extraordinary real creatures can be. For example, the very thing that makes a peacock beautiful is, in reality, what makes it very useless; it simply exists for the sake of being beautiful. By creating the sloth-like figure with impractical claws and decorative hair on its back, she imagines a creature as unnecessary as the peacock. Is it beautiful or hideous though ? Can beauty be found in its kindness towards the little girl?
The Grotto is a 2018 work featuring mushroom-bat hybrids hung all over the walls, encircling a young child.
The works in this section of the show explore the potential of hybrid creatures in our not-so-distant future. Such hybrid creatures would be termed ‘chimeras’, a name taken from a strange beast written about in Greek mythology that was said to be part lion, goat and serpent. In a similar vein, CRISPR technology today opens up the possibility of combining human, animal and plant genetics, and Piccinini turns her attention towards the chimeras themselves – what is our responsibility towards that which we create? What will be their place in our ecosystem? Are they our workers or our children?

Piccinini summarises the show well with her thoughtful comment:

“We live in the Anthropocene. There is no environment on earth that is untouched by human technology… I want to think of a new idea of nature, one that is positive and inclusive. My work argues against the idea that humans are separate from nature… we are much more connected than we think.”

Find out further details on admission at the ArtScience Museum.