By: Yelin Gemma Lee
Patricia Piccinini’s “Curious Imaginings” feels like a gift of an experience. It is very intimate, and it takes you gently into what the official exhibit website describes as a “world of oddly captivating, somewhat grotesque, human-animal hybrid creatures” that look so lifelike that it can be overwhelming. This exhibit will make you rethink the way you were taught to think, and it will challenge you to come visit and experience something you have never experienced before. Pictures, videos, and even this article cannot begin to summarize or do justice to this groundbreaking sensual experience.
Patricia Piccinini’s very lifelike transgenic sculptures explore science, genetics, ethics, and humanity. Her art will either make you revisit the way we are conditioned to think in regards to other living beings, or the impact that science and humans can have upon other creatures.
Upon first looking at the marketing photos for the “Curious Imaginings” exhibit, I felt the hairs on my arms stand straight up. My first emotions were discomfort, curiosity, and a little fear. However, the actual exhibit itself was not the fearsome, negative emotional experience that I predicted it would be. In fact, I felt myself deeply moved by the compassion and life depicted on these creatures’ facial expressions.
Piccinini’s exhibit is being shown at the historic Patricia Hotel until December 15, 2018. Upon signing in/purchasing tickets, you are told to go upstairs, where you meet a volunteer who introduces you to a small baby creature. This creature foreshadows the rest of what you are about to see.
The exhibit occupies a whole wing of the hotel, and it is separated into rooms along one hallway, with descriptions outside the room to give you a bit of insight into the art that awaits you inside. Some of the rooms are audio or video-oriented. As you get closer to the end of the hallway, you overhear the noises from these videos — “curious” is exactly what you feel the whole way through.
For me, this process really added to the exhibition and set it apart. It keeps you wondering what could be in the next room and gives you small pieces to absorb carefully, versus the overstimulation that you might experience at traditional art galleries.
The creatures of “Curious Imaginings” were literally put together hair by hair with the utmost attention to hyperrealism; the skin is especially startling with veins, wrinkles, hair, and human imperfections. But the aspect that threw me off the most were the very lifelike facial features and expressions on those faces. You find yourself connecting and engaging with the exhibit, and despite not being able to touch them, you feel many sensations at once. The vulnerability, nakedness, and the expressions of the creatures really invoke a whirlwind of mixed emotions — so much that at times, I felt either muted or moved to tears.
Each room made me feel differently and the guiding descriptions gave a lot of power to the experience of the sculpture. As a whole, the exhibit dismantles the ideas we have around what is normal and what is strange. It bridges the gap that exists between humans and other living beings by asking us questions about humanity, and coexistence. “Curious Imaginings” will draw out the empathy and wonder out of you — don’t miss out on experiencing this truly unique exhibit.
Curious Imaginings is at The Patricia Hotel daily from until Dec 15. The exhibit is open 11am to 7pm. Tickets are available for purchase at www.imcurious.ca or on site at $15 CAD for students (with student ID).