Not Quite Animal

by Patricia Piccinini ( 2008 )

"Not Quite Animal (Transgenic Skull for The Young Family)" is a work that continues my exploration of the increasing permeability of a number of boundaries in the contemporary world. 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.

On one level, "Not Quite Animal (Transgenic Skull for The Young Family)" is an attempt to add bones to the flesh of the figurative silicone works. In this bronze sculpture I work back from the form of the existing sculpture "The Young Family" to produce an anatomically accurate representation of the creature's skull. The resulting cranium combines the skeletal traces of the same physiognomies that informed the original being, resulting in a form that, while definitely not human, is too close to human for comfort.

However, in choosing the venerable and heavily symbolic trope of the skull, the work is also self-consciously connecting to that history. The skull as a symbol of mortality and human vanity, has a particular resonance to my practice which in many ways presents these beings as essentially products of human hubris. There is a certain tragic quality to all of my creatures, which in many ways comes down to my feeling that, not matter how good our intentions, the results of our interventions into nature are unlikely to be what we expect. Human arrogance is that we could think that it might be otherwise, and my use of the skull gestures towards that hubris as much as it does towards the mortality of my creatures. In the "The Young Family", the being is presented as capable of autonomous reproduction, and as such at least potentially capable of self-determination. "Not Quite Animal (Transgenic Skull for The Young Family)" presents the other side of that autonomy; the inevitability of mortality.