The Vizard Foundation
Art Collection of the 1990s
Australian Art and Artists from the Decade

Patricia Piccinini

Patricia Piccinini

Patricia Piccinini's glossy computer-generated Cibachromes and slick sculptures became ubiquitous in the new millennium, their seductive surfaces leading to her representing Australia in the Venice Biennale in 2003, and a major survey show at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, which met with critical acclaim.

Piccinini's work explores numerous social and scientific issues, ranging from genetic engineering through to consumerism, the seduction of fashion portraiture, and advertising. Piccinini presents her work with a clear nod to the fine-tuning of mass production—indeed, the works are not sullied with the hand of the artist but are manufactured away from the studio. The works are so fine-tuned it is difficult to know whether Piccinini is commenting on the fears of futuristic manipulation of humanity or simply promoting it.

Psychotourism (1996) is a case in point. Glossily rendered, Psychotourism depicts an elegant model in 1950s regalia. The 1950s style of dress suggests a nostalgia for a time when advertising promised untroubled futures; when smoking menthol cigarettes was actually good for your throat. Piccinini's model clutches her ubiquitous LUMP (Lifeform with Unevolved Mutant Properties)—a grotesque genetically modified 'baby' complete with bow. The 'mother' glares protectively, an image of maternal protection, the body language of Piccinini's model declaring a maternal posture.

This is a future of ghastly resonance. In late 2002, a cult that believes humanity was cloned by aliens announced that they had overseen the birth of the first cloned human. Medical authorities warned of the likelihood of deformations in the child. In Piccinini's world there are no such problems:

Why take chances with your child by leaving the genetic process up to nature? The LUMP's guaranteed high safety-profile and 100% efficient metabolism, cardio-vascular, neural and immune systems make it the choice for parents who really care. Your child will take advantage of TMGP's unique, bio-patented Enhanced Glandular System (EGS ®) which will provide a variety of useful chemicals for enhanced living; including adrenalin, testosterone, oestrogen, dehydroepiandrosterone, notrophyl and Prozac for quality of life ... give birth to the future today. Congratulations, it's a LUMP!1

It is unclear to what extent this is really meant to be humourous. With its glossy advertising sheen and copywriter spiel, Psychotourism arguably glosses over the grotesquerie of the LUMP. But at the same time one is left wondering what sounds this creature might make (hopefully not the same as the other LUMP—that in David Lynch's Eraserhead [1977]). Is its flesh hard or soft? Does it feed at the breast? Given the posture of the mother, that would seem all too likely. And one day, presumably, it would grow up. Imagine your bank teller as a grown up LUMP ...

With LUMP™, TMPG puts you in control of the reproductive process from start to finish. Our highly trained doctors and technicians work with you to design, conceive and incubate the child of your dreams. Our LUMP™s are guaranteed free of all hereditary diseases, are robust, highly intelligent and come in a variety of morphologies and skin, eye and hair colours. What's more they are cute and adorable and will love you as much as you will love them.2

This is Barbie (complete with corporate branding) meeting Frankenstein in a ghastly head-on collision—but then, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

- Ashley Crawford

  1. P Piccinini, Your time starts now, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide, 1996.
  2. Piccinini.

Patricia Piccinini is represented in Australia by Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.