I have chosen a quite peculiar art instillation, or exhibit, that I haven’t forgotten about since I saw it in my first week in Australia. It is called “Alone with the Gods,” and I saw it at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. In previous blog posts, I have reflected on the learning aspects of Australian history and how that shapes the way Australia is today. However, instead of choosing an old painting, I wanted to deconstruct and evaluate something made in modern times, by modern Australian artists. I wouldn’t say it represents “Australian art,” but I have never seen anything like it. Before I add pictures below, I want to note that although it was my favorite exhibit, by far, because it expanded my perception of what’s possible, I didn’t understand it, or at least the meanings the artists, Patricia Piccinini and Peter Hennessey, were trying to portray. I will include details of my thoughts and experience on that day and then explain what the exhibit, Alone with the Gods meant to me. Then, I will leave a link to video of the artists describing their exhibit and what it means to them.
These two images are the first things I saw when I entered the exhibit. The first is my what can be seen at the door, and already, I became quite lost and confused. I can see basic elements including a piano, lamp, and paintings on a wall. It almost seems like a livable space, as if I am entering a home, but none of those items I mentioned exhibit my normal reality. For example, that piano has some crystal-like, beige substance growing on top of it. However, what draws my attention is the monkey-like human, so I run right towards it. First of all, it is positioned to look me dead in the eye, as if to make me more uncomfortable than I already am. Its face and hair have monkey-like features, but then other features are human-like, like his nose and lips, and oh yeah, his two knees! Eventually I get out of the trance this odd creature has put me in and move on.
Next, I see what looks like the chest and torso of a man. However, it has a small eagle on it chest, hair and odd deformities growing on his stomach, and stitches on the right side of his belly. I am confused on whether he is supposed to represent something like humans being monsters and ruining the planet or if his body has been purposely manipulated into this unordinary being, representing either the future or an experiment of some sorts. Then, I see something I presume to be lady-like. It includes some form of body for the base, long brown hair, an arm and hand that looks creepily real, and about six lightbulb shaped body parts that end with pink lips. This may be one of my favorite pieces within this exhibit because I kept uttering “What?” over and over again. I no longer think these pieces were once supposed to be human. I think someone living in this home found a way to create life, but life that is beyond most people’s perception. This one only has human-like features, and yet it seems unrecognizable.
It seems like growth, this new life, has gone out of control. The people living in this home can no longer control it. It may be hard to see from the kitchen image, but there is a crystal-like pink liquid growing on and in everything, from in the sink, to the countertops, to the microwave, etc. There is some in pots and pans, which makes me believe this life was created, and in fact, cooked. In the next two photos, there is a normal and close-up shot of this liquidity, crystal-like substance taking over a cabinet and set of drawers. Unlike the monkey human, the man and eagle, and the lady-like figure, this life seems like it has taken over a space and is not in the control of its maker. This, I believe, connects to the fear that what humans are creating will one day turn on them. This seems like the beginning stages of this new life destroying this home and creating its own world in the process. I believe that new life is represented through the green crystal-like figures growing in the newly formed whole in the cabinet. Maybe it is meant to represent that humans should not mess with science and the balance of nature. It is called Alone with the Gods, so maybe the Gods do not approve of these people experimenting with life and playing the role of God.
I loved this exhibit mostly because it simultaneously made me think and made me uncomfortable. After listening to the artists explain their exhibit, I definitely misinterpreted a lot of the meanings they meant to portray; however, I do not believe what I took away from this experience would disappoint them because art is art. The way one interprets art is a personal thing. Also, I, as an American, may interpret certain things differently because this art has an Australian influence. All in all, I am sad to see this art exhibit go.
Link to the artists discussing Alone with the Gods- https://www.mca.com.au/discover-new-romance/patricia-piccinini-peter-hennessey/