Meet Graham, Artist’s Vision of Human Evolved for Car Crashes

His giant head would better protect his brain.

Patricia Piccinini, Graham, 2016. Courtesy Victoria Transport Accident Commission.

What form would the human body have to take to better survive car crashes? Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, known for her disturbing hyper-realistic sculptures of hybrid creatures, has collaborated with a trauma surgeon and a crash investigator to create Graham, whose giant head, absence of a neck, and other bizarre features reflect a body evolved to sustain the forces involved in auto collisions.

It’s the newest initiative by the Australian state of Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC), meant to raise awareness and promote road safety.

Patricia Piccinini, <i>Graham</i>, 2016. Courtesy Victoria Transport Accident Commission.

Patricia Piccinini, Graham, 2016. Courtesy Victoria Transport Accident Commission.

“People can survive running at full pace into a wall but when you’re talking about collisions involving vehicles, the speeds are faster, the forces are greater, and the chances of survival are much slimmer,” TAC chief executive officer, Joe Calafiore, said in a statement announcing the initiative.

Royal Melbourne Hospital trauma surgeon Christian Kenfield and Monash University Accident Research Centre crash investigator David Logan worked with Piccinini to design Graham, who will be on view at the State Library of Victoria through August 8 before embarking on a tour.

Patricia Piccinini, <i>Graham</i>, 2016. Courtesy Victoria Transport Accident Commission.

Patricia Piccinini, Graham, 2016. Courtesy Victoria Transport Accident Commission.

“The most significant part of the body for injury is the head,” explains Kenfield in a video. “And so as the head stops, the brain actually keeps moving forwards, smashing against the front part of the skull, and then bouncing backwards and getting an  injury on the back of the head as well. … The strongest man cannot hold himself from going forwards in a car accident because the forces are so great.”

Piccinini, represented in the US by San Francisco’s Hosfelt Gallery, is a veteran of international exhibitions like the 2003 Venice Biennial, where she represented Australia. Her work is held in public collections like the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney and the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra. She’s had solo exhibitions at venues including Haunch of Venison (formerly of New York and London), Robert Miller Gallery (New York), and Yvon Lambert (New York).


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