The Young Family

by Patricia Piccinini ( 2002 )

I take it for granted that technology will continue to advance. There are people trying to resist technological advancement as a whole, but I am not one of them. On the other hand, I'm not unquestioning of technology. I do not think technology is good or bad, it is just technology. And as technology progresses, we will need to figure out how we are going to use it. Over the years, various technologies, especially medical ones, have really changed our idea of what it means to be human. During this time, ideas about our impact on and responsibilities towards our environment have also evolved. It used to be that we defined 'technology' as that which we can control and 'nature' that which we cannot, but we would like to tame. These definitions do not longer apply. Our attitude changed under the influence of technological progress. Nature has gone from being the uncontrolled wild to being a 'resource' to be exploited.

In terms of the real world, these are some of the key issues that I am trying to question and discuss with my work. I’m not pessimistic about developments in biotechnology. We are living in a great time with a lot of opportunities, but opportunities don't always turn out for the best. I just think we should discuss the full implications of these opportunities.

So if we look at The Young Family we see a mother creature with her babies. Her facial expression is very thoughtful. I imagine this creature to be bred for organ transplants. At the moment we are trying to do such a thing with pigs, so I gave her some pig-like features. That is the purpose humanity has chosen for her. Yet she has children of her own that she nurtures and loves. That is a side-effect beyond our control, as there will always be.

That is what makes the question of breeding animals purely for organ-transfer so difficult to answer. On one hand we need organs to help people in need, on the other hand we are looking at an animal that wants to exist for the sake of itself. I can't help but feel an enormous empathy for this creature. And, to be very honest, if it would save the life of one of my children, I would be will to take one of these organs. I know it is probably not ethically right but sometimes honesty, emotions, empathy and ethics don't always line up.