Originally published: Artist Statement for Robert Miller Gallery, NYC
by Patricia Piccinini (2004)

Bodyguard (for the Golden Helmeted Honeyeater) is the first in a series of works called Nature's Little Helpers. At its core, the work is about good intentions or, more specifically, doing the wrong thing for the right reason. The Golden Helmeted Honeyeater is a small, beautifully coloured bird that lives in my home state of Victoria in Australia. There are only fifteen pairs of this bird left in the wild, and captive breeding programs are working hard to keep the bird from extinction.

I have designed the bodyguard to help protect the Golden Helmeted Honeyeater, from people, from encroachment, and to help support its rather strange eating habits. The HeHo, as it is called by those who work with it, eats nectar and tree sap. It has a relationship with a possum; the possum bites into the trunks of certain gum trees, causing sap to run out and the HeHo eats the sap. As the natural environment of these animals are encroached upon by humans there are less gums trees, and less possums and less HeHos.

The bodyguard has been genetically engineered to be a fierce and loyal protector for the Golden Helmeted Honeyeater. He will protect it from exotic predators, and he has powerful jaws that allow him to bite into trees, to provide the birds with sap.

In the western world, we have a long history of looking to new technologies to find a rapid fix to a difficult problem. In Australia, in the early twentieth century, solid scientific research led to the introduction of the cane toad to help eliminate the cane beetle that was ravaging the valuable sugar cane that grows in the north. The cane toad quickly wiped out the beetles, and then moved on to numerous native species, which had no defences. The cane toads have become an unstoppable force, their range growing every year.

The answers to questions are rarely as simple as we hope, and often our understanding of situations not nearly as clear as we would like to think.

Perhaps I am being too pessimistic. When I look at the bodyguard I see a creature that, while fierce, is not cruel. His armoured back and strong jaws give way to a soft belly. The ethical environmental issues are interesting, but they are just background. More interesting for me is the possibility of the unpredictable relationship between the HeHo and its bodyguard, and between them and us.




Interview with The Condition Report by Patricia Piccinini and The Condition report

Just Because Something Is Bad, Doesn't Mean It Isn't Good by Basak Doga Temur

Patricia Piccinini interviewed by Jane Messenger by Jane Messenger

Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture's Generations by Donna Haraway

The Naturally Artificial World by Laura Fernandez Orgaz and Patricia Piccinini

Border Patrol by Stella Brennan

We Are Family: Patricia Piccinini at the 50th Biennale of Venice by Linda Michael

Patricia Piccinini's Offspring by Peter Hennessey

Fast forward: accelerated evolution by Rachel Kent

One Night Love by Nikos Papastergiadis

Autoerotic by Amanda Rowell

One Night Love by Linda Michael

Atmosphere by Juliana Engberg

Biopshere by Edward Colless

Patricia Piccinini: Ethical Aesthetics by Jacqueline Millner

Patricia Piccinini - Early Installations by Peter Hennessey

The NESS Project and the Birth of Truck Babies by Hiroo Yamagata

Some thoughts about Embryo by Patricia Piccinini

The Rookie by Patricia Piccinini

The Shadows Calling by Patricia Piccinini

Meditations on the continuum of vitality by Patricia Piccinini

Six observations about The Skywhale by Patricia Piccinini

Those Who Dream by Night by Patricia Piccinini

The Fitzroy Series by Patricia Piccinini

Eulogy by Patricia Piccinini

The Lovers by Patricia Piccinini

The Welcome Guest by Patricia Piccinini

The Observer by Patricia Piccinini

Aloft by Patricia Piccinini

Balasana by Patricia Piccinini

The Gathering by Patricia Piccinini

Perhaps the World is Fine Tonight by Patricia Piccinini

Bottom Feeder by Patricia Piccinini

Not Quite Animal by Patricia Piccinini

The Long Awaited by Patricia Piccinini

The Foundling by Patricia Piccinini

In Another Life by Patricia Piccinini

Big Mother by Patricia Piccinini

Bodyguard by Patricia Piccinini

Sandman by Patricia Piccinini

The Leather Landscape by Patricia Piccinini

The Young Family by Patricia Piccinini

Still Life With Stem Cells by Patricia Piccinini

Swell by Patricia Piccinini

The Breathing Room by Patricia Piccinini

Truck Babies by Patricia Piccinini