Perhaps the World is Fine Tonight

by Patricia Piccinini ( 2009 )

Perhaps the World is Fine Tonight is an installation that I created originally for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart. It is a traditional museum-style diorama that people can move through and it presents a group of Tasmanian devils surrounding a girl. In contrast to the popular notion of Tasmanian devils as dangerous, ugly creatures, they do not threaten her. Instead, they are sitting and lying calmly, while the girl rests in a yoga pose called the 'pose of the child'. The strangely calm yet eerie atmosphere is augmented by the haunting soundtrack, by Franc Tetaz, the evokes the windiness of hilltop overlaid mysterious vocal and instrumental melodies that hover at the edge of audibility.

It is an incongruously tranquil work. All of the creatures are quite formally and carefully placed, which makes them seem a little out of place in the beautiful mountaintop environment. It is almost as if they have deliberately gathered to perform some ritual. The girl’s manifest calm and the devils’ almost protective demeanor are at odds with the usual notion of the darkened bush setting as threatening. Stranger still, hovering overhead is a huge bodily but otherwise unidentifiable form that is being held up by a pair of wedgetailed eagles. Just what this is unclear. It’s physicality and verisimilitude contradict the most obvious possibility that the object is purely metaphorical. The work has a dreamlike quality, in that while it all seems to make sense at the time it’s, upon awakening the illogicality or impossibility of the situation is obvious.

In thinking about the work, the strangeness of the suspended object is actually no more extreme than the unlikeliness of the relationship between the girls and devils. All these things are very much in the realm of dreams rather than reality. For me this is a very experiential work, rather than a clearly narrative one. It is very much about creating a space that enables a very special sort of experience for those who view it, transporting them to a world in between the real world and the world of dreams.