Truck Babies

by Patricia Piccinini ( 1999 )

The idea for Truck Babies came to me while on a long road trip in the United States; driving from New Orleans to Niagra falls. During that time I became very familiar with the trucks that thundered by me on the road, after a while they seemed like giant whales, the only real 'wildlife' that I saw on my journey. In fact, when I did see deer, they were the ones that seemed artificial or out of place. I began to distinguish between the trucks; I could nominate which family (fleet) they belonged to, I could distinguish their features (customising). It wasn't long before I asked the question - where are their babies and what do they look like? This was the birth of Truck Babies.

The Truck Babies are infantile not miniature; they have big cheeks and fat bottoms, little wheels and lovely big eyes. They are what I imagined to be the off spring of the big trucks that I saw on the road. I examined the relationship between babies and fully-grown animals and people and applied these developmental changes backwards to the trucks.

I also went in search of a context for the Truck Babies; their family. I found them in Tokyo in the young techno street-wise and fashion-conscious teenage girls of the city. I was excited by how these girls, in many ways powerless in mainstream society, can manage to create a sort of power for themselves. In these girls I saw an awareness of the temporal nature of ideas - fads. They embrace new technologies and new ideas, knowing all the time that these ideas, like their own youth will not last for ever. In the installation these girls continuously give advice to the fledgling Truck Babies on how to grow up in a world of compromise and still find a kind of integrity for yourself.

One of my interests for the work was to take something as frightening and unfriendly as a truck and turn it into something that is cute, desirable and seductive. In the same way, consumer culture creates the beauty and desire that blinds you to the pollution and other problems of the industry and economics that lie behind it. Trucks and cars represent for me the archetypal example of this process where contemporary consumer culture conjures desire out of nothing more than glossy surfaces and shiny chrome. The Truck Babies illustrate my own ambiguous feelings towards this process; where I see and enjoy this beauty as much as I condemn it. Truck Babies is a cute work, full of humour, but at the same time quite serious. It asks questions about the 'nature' of contemporary society - and the increasingly strange and confused relationship between what we see as 'natural' and 'artificial'. It asks whether we can any longer simply draw a line separating animals and machines, and where we stand in between the two. The work also talks about the seductive nature of consumer culture, attempting to find a position that is both positive and critical.