Blurred Boundaries: A History of Hybrid Beings and the Work of Patricia Piccinini
AuthorSasse, Julie Rae
AdvisorIvey, Paul E.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHybrid beings have been a part of the artistic imagination since art was first made on cave walls and rock faces. Yet their visual makeup and symbolic meanings have changed over time from deities, demons, and oddities of nature to unconscious states of being and the socially and culturally marginalized. This dissertation will examine a history of hybrid beings and the work of Australian artist Patricia Piccinini. Her silicone sculptures, photographs, installations, and videos are hyperrealistic representations of composite beings that appear to have blended rather than fragmented characteristics of human and animal, which sets them apart from their historic precedents. Piccinini suggests that her hybrids are products of genetic engineering, ostensibly created to serve human beings as comforters, nurturers, protectors, and surrogates for humans and endangered species alike. I argue that Piccinini's hybrids shed light on the hubris and commercialism inherent in bioscientific advances, yet they also reveal a kind of societal ambivalence regarding the posthuman era. Her works suggest utopian aspirations for the future while mourning the loss of humanity as it has been known. Examining Piccinini's art through the lens of liminality and the body, I will contextualize her hybrids within cultural and art historical models from ancient Egypt and Greece through the Victorian eras. In particular, I will establish common ground with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), which served as an early inspiration for Piccinini's images and conceptual aims. I will also highlight hybrid imagery in Dada and Surrealism and feminist art to reveal the similarities and differences in their approaches and intent. Piccinini's works operate within Donna J. Haraway's notion of the cyborg; therefore, I will also analyze her art within that theoretical model. In addition, I will compare and contrast Piccinini's art to early hyprerrealist sculptors and contemporary artists working in this manner. Piccinini's hybrids establish that both humans and animals are social constructs, and that society has a responsibility for the life forms it creates. Ultimately, this project demonstrates that Piccinini's hybrids are not cautionary tales of a dystopian future but representations of the biotechnological sublime.
Degree ProgramGraduate College