The realities of our future: Robotics, biotechnology and Patricia Piccinini


Known for her imaginative, yet strangely familiar, lifelike hybrid creatures, Patricia Piccinini invites us to think about our place in a world where advances in biotechnology and digital technologies are challenging the boundaries of humanity. Piccinini’s fantastic hybrid beings invite us to find beauty in a world not ruled by notions of perfection.

The Gallery’s evening discussion program GOMA Talks returned during ‘Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection‘. Across two evenings, ABC Radio National hosts Scott Stephens (The Minefield) and Cathy Van Extel (Big Ideas) with guest panellists explored humankind’s complicated relationship with the future we are creating.


As we confront with the prospect of a future in which artificial technology, robotics, and advances in biotechnology are commonplace, what are our ethical obligations, both to our fellow humans, and also to our creations?

Explore the theme of relationship with the GOMA Talks panel – the nature of relationship, and the binding obligations that relationships exert upon us. Relation is at the centre of Patricia Piccinini’s work, the intermingling of human and non-human animals; the relationship of the animal to the machine; and even the animal and the machine’s relationship towards another creature.

Hosted by Scott Stephens, presenter of ABC Radio National’s The Minefield / With guests Hussein Abbass, Professor in the School of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of New South Wales Canberra / Christy Dena, writer-designer-director, Universe Creation 101 and QUT Digital Writing Residency recipient / Anita Pisch, author and Visiting Fellow, School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, Australian National University / Robert Sparrow, Professor in the Philosophy Program, a Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, and an adjunct Professor in the Monash Bioethics Centre, Monash University, Melbourne.


Art and culture has long been a means to grapple with humankind’s complicated emotional relationship with artificial intelligence and biotechnology. What is our fascination with creatures that are built in our own image, and how far away are we really from the creatures that we have imagined?

It’s been two decades since Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell using the process of nuclear transfer; the first isolation of human embryonic stem cells; and more recently genetic editing through CRISPR has opened up a new world of possibilities. Biotechnology is pushing the boundaries, while artificial intelligence and robotics are playing a greater role in our lives. Listen to the GOMA Talks panel as they respond to the questions: What does it mean to be human; how should we relate to our ‘creatures’; and should they have rights?

Hosted by Cathy Van Extel, presenter of ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas / With guests Elizabeth Finkel, Australian science journalist, editor-in-Chief of COSMOS magazine / Upulie Divisekera, molecular biologist, science communicator and writer / Jonathan Parsons, Artistic Director, curator and creative producer / Catherine S. McMullen, screenwriter for film, television and VR.

Read more on our blog / Watch exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage on YouTube / Listen on Spotify / Visit our website

The exhibition is supported by Principal Benefactor, the Neilson Foundation, and Major Partner, Tourism and Events Queensland.

Feature image: Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965 / The Struggle 2017 / Fibreglass, automotive paint, leather, steel, cycle parts; ed. 1/3 + 1 AP / 200 × 240 × 120cm / Purchased with funds provided by the MCA Foundation, 2018 / Collection: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney / © The artist