[ISEA96] Artist Statement: Patricia Piccinini – GMS

Artist Statement

GMS is part of The Mutant Genome Project (TMGP), an ongoing project that deals with the effects,and prevailing authority, of medical technology in contemporary society. The work takes it’s impetus from the worldwide Human Genome Initiative which aims to map and document all human genetic material, with a view to being able to change it. The motivations behind this scientific research are entirely admirable; scientists working to rid the world of genetic disease. TMGP operates at the point whre the rarefied world of altruistic genetic research meets the prosaic world of consumer medicine, where drug companies have to make a profit for their shareholders. TMGP asks the question – who makes the decisions and whose interests do these serve. In a world where every part of our superficial bodies can be surgically altered to conform to an increasingly global ideal, and where there is an imperative to provide the best for yourself and for your family, and where the desire to fulfil these obligations are constantly exploited by advertising and the mass media; TMGP asks, ” could genetic engineering become the cosmetic surgery of the future?” TMGP is fictitious bio-technology company that markets genetically engineered, ‘designer babies’ called LUMPs (Lifeforms with unevolved mutant properties) – supposedly the first prodigy of th e Human Genome Initiative. LUMP is a cute lovable baby with six eyes and no legs; it is very intelligent and it is immune to all known deceases. LUMP represents the human body redesigned by an engineer for maximum efficiency with a high ‘safety profile’. GMS, the proposed installation for ISEA96 takes the form of three large format, computer generated photographs and a Macintosh-based, interactive multimedia that emulates and critiques medical advertising and ideology. LUMPis seen as a pristine, 3D modelled form with the sort of beautiful, shiny surface that suits marketing objectives more than reality. The GMS interactive shows people what they would like to see rather than what they are actually buying; a fleshy mass with a cocktail of genes that might have an unforseen effects on our evolution. The interactive gives the user a sense that they are in control much like with any other computer game; selfconsciously oversimplifying the whole process, by reducing LUMP to an wasily digested commodity with a price tag. This brings the whole ‘interactive advertising’ process to the surface. The viewer as a customer designs their ideal baby by choosing options in the same way one would chose a new car or a home loan (the interactive is based on laptop-bases home loan simulators advertises on Australian television). In the installation, this cute and bloodless process is contrasted with a series of three1.3 m square digital photographs depicting the visceral anatomies of the LUMPs. These almost Caravagioesque image combin 3D renderings of dead LUMPs, dissected with anatomically accurate interiors renderd by hand directly into the computer via a pressure sensitive realities of 3D modelling with the speciously ‘warm and fuzzy’ techniques of traditional medical illustration. When the viewer sees the animation of their ‘supposedly’ perfect child contrasted with the dark realities of dissection, it is evident that while their creation supposedly satisfies all their desires and is certainly cute, it is not human – at least not as that term is currently understood,. Animated LUMP may seem appealing but the idea is disturbing. However, TMGP is not good or bad – it’s just there, and it may be a reality in the near future. The work can’t afford to be moral about the issue of genetic research, because it is too important. What TMPG is really saying is that it is an issue too important to left only for the medical scientific community to deal with it. We could be at the beginning of the most potentially revlutionay era in human ‘being’, potentially able to redesign ourselves, or our children, from scratch. TMGP wants nothing more than to be an ironic participant in the discussions that should take place.