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.
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.