Archive of Author | Peta Clancy

Peta Clancy: I am a lecturer in Fine Art at Monash University in the Faculty of Art Design & Architecture (MADA) in Melbourne, where I completed a practice based PhD in 2009. I have explored the surface of the body as a porous membrane. I am interested in the permeability of this and other membranes such as the gut lining. In an earlier series of works ‘Visible Human Bodies’ (2007) I worked with living bacteria to create live drawings of the body. Our bodies are host to millions of microbes and bacteria. The body and self does not end at the skin but is deeply interconnected with the world. Our skin is a porous membrane that lets things pass in and out. It was this interest in the notion of the porosity of bodily boundaries that led me to being interested in exploring organ transplantation for ‘The Body is a Big Place’ project. I am drawn to collaborating with other artists as a way to challenge and broaden my art practice, and to achieve things I could not do on my own. I recently collaborated with Helen Pynor on ‘The Body is Big Place’ project. From working on the project I became more aware of how my body may interconnect with other bodies and it challenged my understanding of the liminal space between life and death. That death is a process. ‘The Body is a Big Place’ project has been exhibited internationally at Galerija Kapelica, Slovenia in 2013; Performance Space, Sydney in 2011; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (2013); National Centre for Contemporary Art, Baltic Branch, Russia (2013); Science Gallery Dublin (2013); Powerhouse Museum, Sydney (2013); Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (2012); and OK Center for Contemporary Art, Ars Electronica, Austria (2012). In 2012 the project was awarded an Honorary Mention in the Prix Ars Electronica in Austria. We were awarded an Australian Network for Art and Technology Synapse Art/Science Residency Grant to participate in a four-month residency in the Heart and Lung Transplant Unit at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney during 2012.

My current practice predominantly engages with the expanded field of photography. When I went to art school in my early twenties I majored in photography. As this was before the time of digital imaging, I learnt through analogue processes and there was a uniqueness associated with photographic imagery. A lot has changed since I trained at art school. Now everyone takes photographs. With IPhones and social media photography is a huge part of our everyday lives. Photographs are ubiquitous. Most people know how to create aesthetically pleasing images. I don’t find this daunting. I find it inspiring because I feel it pushes me to be even more inventive with the medium. Photographs are like language because they are found everywhere. We communicate with words, yet not everyone is a writer. I think of photography in the same way. In my most recent work I have been interested in activating the materiality of the photographic medium by exploring photographs in terms of what the image content depicts as well as three-dimensional objects that exist in space and time. I am currently working on two related bodies of photographic work exploring my aboriginal ancestry. In the new work I am investigating threatened Australian moths and butterflies and the sites where massacres of Aboriginal people occurred in the landscape in Victoria. This work explores the themes of dislocation, belonging, loss, erasure, recovery, absence and presence in relation to the Australian landscape.

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Articles with Peta Clancy


The Body is a Big Place (interview with Peta Clancy)

Peta Clancy has investigated the intersection of art and biological processes for the past decade. Working predominantly with photography and more recently bio-art, sculpture, installation, and video, she has undertaken an in-depth analysis of the skin as a porous membrane. In this exclusive interview she discusses, from her own perspective, ‘The Body is a Big Place’, a collaborative installation work by herself and Helen Pynor, exploring organ transplantation and the ambiguous thresholds between life and death.