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Reimagining Our Relationship With Nature Through Art

Reimagining Our Relationship With Nature Through Art
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Reimagining Our Relationship With Nature Through Art

Reimagining Our Relationship With Nature Through Art

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The creature has the sharp beak and fin of a dolphin, but the sagging jowls and stomach of an aging person. Scattered blond hair comes out of its vent and down to its dorsal fin. His plump body is marbled as if he had been in the cold a little too long.

It’s grotesque. I can’t decide if the dismal, overly human expression on his face makes him more or less bearable.

But there is something loving about the way her hands are wrapped protectively around the young girl on her knees, her delicate and careful webbed fingers against her back and knees. The girl, on the other hand, seems to be taking a good nap.

The upstairs rooms of Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station, open to the public for the first time in 25 years, are filled with sculptures like this, hybrid creatures both familiar and alien, created by the Australian artist Patricia Piccinini.

“It asks us to take this journey from aversion and discomfort about something we’re not sure about, warmth and connection,” Piccinini said of the exhibit, titled “ A constantly repeated miracle “. “It’s a hard thing to do, to take this trip. We don’t usually do that.

The exhibit was designed as part of Rising, Melbourne’s new arts festival, and is one of the few events to survive the lockdowns that forced much of the festival to be canceled.

Tens of thousands of Victorians flocked to see one of Australia’s most prominent contemporary artists in one of Melbourne’s most mythological spaces. I visited it one afternoon earlier this week, driven by a desire to be out of my home as much as possible after two weeks of confinement (and just before being hit by another).

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The show reinvents our relationship with nature, a subject that seems particularly prescient now that forest fires are burning in the United States and floods and fires are ravaging parts of Europe. Piccinini says she started planning for it during the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, and environmental concerns are present in her artwork.

The aforementioned aquatic creature, in “No Fear of Depths,” is based on the endangered Australian humpback dolphin, while other work imagines how animals could be modified to survive hazards such as litter in the ocean and introduced predatory species.

“The problem is, when we allow ourselves to be separated from nature, we can act on the rest of nature and think it’s not going to affect us,” she said. “This dichotomous relationship just doesn’t work for us anymore.”

Instead, his works portray caring and connecting relationships and invite the viewer to the same. “Sapling” depicts a man hoisting a tree-child hybrid on his shoulders, his fleshy roots playfully wrapped around his chest. In “While She Sleeps”, a pair of nude leonine-faced creatures based on the extinct thylacine huddle together as if to warm themselves, watery eyes staring at the viewer.

Piccinini’s creatures are disturbingly real, from the fine dust of hair on their skin to tiny wrinkles where their fingers and toes bend. Inside the cracked and chipped walls of Flinders Street Station’s normally empty ballroom, where the sounds of the surrounding city are muffled and far away, it feels like the creatures might emerge from their pedestal. You can’t help but recognize something familiar about each of them, no matter how weird they seem.

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“A big part of my job is making connections,” she said. “Connections between ideas, but also emotional connections between works and viewers. I really hope there will be a place for everyone in this exhibition. The work stems from the basic assumption that all life, all bodies, all beings are beautiful and precious.

The exhibition is open until January 16.

Now for our stories of the week:


  • Megachurch co-founder accused of covering up child sexual abuse. Australian police alleged that Brian Houston, senior pastor in Hillsong, did not report his father’s assault in the 1970s.

  • American men’s basketball defeats Australia and heads to the gold medal game. The United States will face France in the final on Saturday.

  • Total number of coronavirus infections worldwide exceeds staggering 200 million. Vaccines have weakened the link between increasing cases and serious illness, but in vaccine-deprived areas of the world, the deadly pattern persists.

  • As the hikers disappear, these mountains keep their mysteries. South Australia’s high country is “remote, beautiful and unpredictable,” a place where visitors can be swallowed up quietly.

  • The best new movies and TV shows on Netflix, Amazon and Stan in Australia in August. Our picks for the month of August, including “The Chair”, “The L Word” and “Annette”

  • Will these places survive a collapse? Don’t bet on it, say skeptics. Two British researchers have found New Zealand is in the best position to stay operational as climate change continues to wreak havoc around the world. Other scientists have found flaws in their model.

  • In bodybuilding, a historic moment for transgender women. A sport that rarely makes headlines was at the center of the Olympics on Monday as the first openly transgender woman entered the Games.

  • Square payments app to acquire Australian company Afterpay. The $ 29 billion deal would introduce Afterpay’s “buy now, pay later” service to US consumers and small businesses who process their credit card transactions on Square.

  • With seven medals at a single Olympics, Emma McKeon tied a record. McKeon’s booty equals the record for any Olympian, set in 1952 by gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya of the Soviet Union.

  • In the swim final, the American men maintained their unbeaten streak, and Emma McKeon earned her 7th medal. McKeon won two more gold medals, which earned him a record seven medals in Tokyo, and Caeleb Dressel swam with his fourth and fifth gold medals.

  • First openly transgender woman at Olympics fuels fairness debate. Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old New Zealand weightlifter, will compete on Monday as some question her right to be at the Games.

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Credit…A Rong Xu for the New York Times

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