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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

All That is Plastic...Patricia Paccinini's Kinship Networks


Patricia Piccinini's sculpture was presented at the Australian pavilion of the 2003 Venice Biennale. Piccinini's creatures occupy a space between the disavowed and the desired. I focus on the borders and boundaries that emerge from a wish to remap our connectedness, our relatedness subsequent to our fevered studies of differences, divergences. The identity politics of the late twentieth century focused our attention at the points of difference even while demanding the coalitional, collective work across those differences; this century has us turning from otherness and difference to relationality and sameness, back some distance from the particular, demanding the glance that can take in globality/universality, all the while refusing totality. Piccinini works and thinks against a kind of arrogance that would presume to know what is best; in fact, she points out that often we do the wrong things for the right
reasons, and it is in those unintended consequences that her interest and curiosity lie. With her, I would privilege curiosity, even as I wonder whether it is possible to maintain a theoretically ethically neutral perspective on this trait of our animal selves. For out of curiosity can come creation, but often also the urge to control. Technology and kinship both might be deemed what we make of that which we are given - the potential derived from the possible. Here is where Piccinini's imagination stretches ours. The materials of Piccinini's work
range from silicone to leather to human hair, and fiberglass, polycarbonate and automotive paint; materials that may be what we cannot dispose of, but which, in their plasticity, as they take familiar familial forms, open us up as spectators. Piccinini says her work comes to her first as ideas, and some of those ideas then ‘grow bones and want to walk,' though bones are not the materials of their making.

Insights Paper