by Patricia Piccinini (2009)
The Bottom Feeder looks at the idea of duality, and also our relationship with other creatures and the environment. This is an imagined creature that been designed to eat rubbish, with a metabolism engineered to process plastic. It is an unlovely role, the kind that humans seem very happy to consign to ‘others’. It is also is literally 'two-faced'. It's true face is shark-like, and a reference to the vital role these much maligned scavengers play in keeping the sea floors clear. In fact, the majority of sharks live on dead creatures scavenged from the sea floor, and without them the bottom of the sea would be a much dirtier place. In Australia, we do have the occasional shark attack and people tend to look at them as dangerous animals. However, more people are killed each year by pets than by sharks.
Like a shark, the Bottom Feeder seems to be one thing but it is actually another. When you first see it, you see what appears to be a strange, smiling face. However, this is not his face at all. it is actually his bottom. This is a common trick in the insect and reptile world, known as Batesian mimicry, a deception aimed at misdirecting potential predators. In this case, that predator is humans. The face is designed to appeal to people, to endear the animal to us or at least amuse us. This is a reminder that we are in fact the 'apex predator' of pretty much every ecosystem on the planet. Sharks have much more to fear from us than we do from them.
As with much of my work, part of the dynamic revolves around the way that the work challenges the viewer to empathise with the creature. On so many level, the Bottom Feeder is an ‘other’ and a lowly on at that. However, there is a certain dignity in his modest status and role. He is marked and scarred and somewhat scruffy, and his most attractive feature is his absurd bottom, but beneath his strangeness there is something that might be valued and loved.