The Breathing Room

by Patricia Piccinini (1999)

The Breathing Room is a screen-based installation that looks at the idea of panic within contemporary society. The work reflects a the very contemporary state of anxiety that occurs as new technologies (electronic, biochemical, biotechnological, agricultural) begin to destablise the ‘fundamentals’ of life; the specificity of species, the physicality of space, the continuity of cultural or polical institutions.

The Breathing Room represents this as a tension between two screen spaces. Three large screens show a fragment of a body, a stretch of breathing skin. It is recognizable yet not quite real. We see, hear and feel the rhythm of its breathing. It is huge but almost intimate, both fascinating and claustrophobic. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the Breathing Room panics and we share that viscerally, through vibrations in the floor.

Behind us are a number of small TV monitors, and we hear before we see the strange transgenetic animal scurries from one to next. At first it might be frightening, like the sound of rats in the walls, but gradually it will start to seem almost ordinary. However, the animal never slows down long enough to give us a good look at it. Like the truth in contemporary culture it feels unreal, is strange to look at and moves quickly from one space to the next.

I understand why the scientists in England who received the first Platypus specimens though that they were a hoax. They didn’t look real to them, just as the laboratory rats that glow in the dark or have human ears growing on their backs don’t look real to us. But real they are. In the same way that the use of animal DNA in genetically modified food plants is also both inconcievable and almost invisibly commonplace.

Like the little animal in the breathing room, we live within a space both expanded and contained by technology. It moves in and out of the light so quickly that it is hard to get a grasp on. Or else we see it as a fragment in so much detail that we cannot see how it fits into the whole. It is no wonder that we feel anxious, stressed, even a little paniced sometimes.

It might be argued that we needed the millenium bug. We needed something contemporary to stand in the place of the medieval apocalyse, to give us something to be afraid of. That is not so much because we aren’t afraid of anything - paniced, anxious, phobic, stressed – but more because we aren’t sure of exactly what it is that we should be afraid of.

We live at a moment of panic; an age circumscribed by the ‘anxiety attack’ (where panic become a palpable pathological condition) and ‘extreme sports’ (where panic becomes an end in itself). The rapid pace of technological change in both electronics and biochemistry has rendered the conceptual ground upon which we stand decidedly unstable.

It is little wonder that we panic; we are anxious about cloned farm animals, we are concerned about genetically modified canola seeds, we are worried about child pornography on the internet, we are perturbed by internet censorship, we are apprehensive about technologies set to stop or reverse that aging process, and we are perplexed by why scientists would engineer luminous transgenetic mice, and then alarmed by the news that it was just because they could. However, deep down, we are glad that they did.




“Your Place Is My Place.“ Rosi Braidotti in conversation with Patricia Piccinini by Rosi Braidotti and Patricia Piccinini

Interview for Fine Spind Denmark by Sophie Normann Christensen and Patricia Piccinini

Interview with Pauline Bendsen for Jyllands-Posten (Denmark) Jan 21, 2019 by Pauline Bendsen and Patricia Piccinini

Interview with Alvaro Fierro for JOIA Magazine 49 (Chile) 2018 by Alvaro Fierro and Patricia Piccinini

Interview with The Condition Report by Patricia Piccinini and The Condition report

Just Because Something Is Bad, Doesn't Mean It Isn't Good by Basak Doga Temur

Patricia Piccinini interviewed by Jane Messenger by Jane Messenger

Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture's Generations by Donna Haraway

The Naturally Artificial World by Laura Fernandez Orgaz and Patricia Piccinini

Border Patrol by Stella Brennan

We Are Family: Patricia Piccinini at the 50th Biennale of Venice by Linda Michael

Patricia Piccinini's Offspring by Peter Hennessey

Fast forward: accelerated evolution by Rachel Kent

One Night Love by Nikos Papastergiadis

Autoerotic by Amanda Rowell

One Night Love by Linda Michael

Atmosphere by Juliana Engberg

Biopshere by Edward Colless

Patricia Piccinini: Ethical Aesthetics by Jacqueline Millner

Patricia Piccinini - Early Installations by Peter Hennessey

The NESS Project and the Birth of Truck Babies by Hiroo Yamagata

Some thoughts about my practice by Patricia Piccinini

The Couple by Patricia Piccinini

The Field by Patricia Piccinini

The Bond by Patricia Piccinini

Some thoughts about Embryo by Patricia Piccinini

The Rookie by Patricia Piccinini

The Shadows Calling by Patricia Piccinini

Bootflower by Patricia Piccinini

Meditations on the continuum of vitality by Patricia Piccinini

Six observations about The Skywhale by Patricia Piccinini

Those Who Dream by Night by Patricia Piccinini

The Fitzroy Series by Patricia Piccinini

Eulogy by Patricia Piccinini

The Lovers by Patricia Piccinini

The Welcome Guest by Patricia Piccinini

The Observer by Patricia Piccinini

Aloft by Patricia Piccinini

Balasana by Patricia Piccinini

The Gathering by Patricia Piccinini

Perhaps the World is Fine Tonight by Patricia Piccinini

Bottom Feeder by Patricia Piccinini

Not Quite Animal by Patricia Piccinini

The Long Awaited by Patricia Piccinini

The Foundling by Patricia Piccinini

In Another Life by Patricia Piccinini

Big Mother by Patricia Piccinini

Bodyguard by Patricia Piccinini

Sandman by Patricia Piccinini

The Leather Landscape by Patricia Piccinini

The Young Family by Patricia Piccinini

Still Life With Stem Cells by Patricia Piccinini

Swell by Patricia Piccinini

The Breathing Room by Patricia Piccinini

Truck Babies by Patricia Piccinini

The Bond by Patricia Piccinini