“During the pandemic I’ve been walking a lot. I’ve been looking at the band posters, they haven’t changed for two months because there are no gigs, no comedy, no music, no theatre. And I thought ‘I’m going to use that space, because we need to use that space’. I want to think that there’s something going on.
“So I’m going to do 104 posters all round the city asking these questions. The kinds of questions that being in the pandemic are bringing up. How did we bring the world to this point and how are we going to make it? Someone might have the answer.”
Piccinini wants people emerging from lockdown to be confronted with the images and the questions – in person or on Instagram. She wants to provoke soul-searching on a city-wide, even global scale on topics like pandemics and global warming.
It’s a physical and social media action, and Piccinini is excited by both. The structure of the posters, an image with big, bold text, mirrors the language of memes – and their virality.
“I love objects, I create them, but what I strive for is a moment where meaning is created, and that happens in hearts and minds,” she says.
There is “nothing that beats” the empathy and emotion generated by being in the same room as sculpture, but she hopes language will restore that lost dimension. And she feels like “there is more at stake now”.
The bat chimera image is a lucky accident, she says – all the images come from sculptures she’s made in the last 18 months: this was a response to a story about climate change-triggered heatwaves causing mass bat deaths.
“But it’s also really interesting in this [COVID-19] context,” Piccinini says. “The coronavirus may have come about because we encroached on the natural habitat of the bats. We think there are barriers between us and other creatures, but the virus leapt across and threatened us.
“That’s the strength of art. I’m not going to put my name on this. It’s not an ad, it’s an action. Look how all these questions interrelate: our children, our hearts, technology. This isn’t a lecture, this is a time to contemplate, a point for us to stop and think: ‘is there room in our hearts for this chimera human bat?'”
ArtSpace’s 52 Actions is staged on artspace.com.au/52actions and broadcast through its Instagram @artspacesydney and @52artists52actions.
Nick Miller is Arts Editor of The Age.