Published  08/07/2003

Stem cells in the suburbs

In the 2003 Biennale Australian pavilion, Patricia Piccinini ('We are family') entered into the flesh and spirit of the event by seeking to plumb 'normality'; she goes on the consider 'What is family?' A half-understood image of the human genome seems to challenge all human urges to normalise, from birth onwards. We seek normality and we recoil from any departure from the norm. If the family becomes the organism for normality, then Piccinini craves the abandonment of cherished, religious and secular ideas for its continuity. Pulsating embryos, mothers and their clones (created via stem cell technology?) presumably did not look their best in temperatures around 40 degrees; but nor did they sweat in the heat, for fear of short-circuitry. Welcoming orifices compete with suburban kitsch. Could this be the final cry of the sublime? For that experience, a too hot shower is called for, and a commentary by Gillo Dorfles would consign this fruitless experiment to the trash can.

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