Detail from 'We Are Family' by Patricia PiccaniniWe will admit it was the mention of a freely downloadable podcast commentary in this week’s Listener that drew us in. Some of us Wellingtonistas are more geeky than others.

But given what seems to be the theme of the City Gallery‘s latest exhibition, Australian artist Patricia Piccanini‘s In Another Life (19 February to 11 June 2006, free entry), this use of technology for drawing the punters in now feels a little ironic to us.

As card- iPod-carrying technophiles not exactly orientated to the world of conceptual art, we would not have thought to attend had we not first seen the podcast advertisement. Yet our perhaps naïve and sometimes heedless personal belief in the use of technology for solving all problems makes us the perfect audience for Piccanini’s work.

For the highlights of the exhibition are a series of sculptures, hyperreal chimæric depictions of what could happen if we, as the artist says in her commentary, “do the wrong things for the right reasons” with technologies such as GE and nanotech. Initially the sculptures may come across as grotesque and disturbing, but over time the viewer may come to see the underlying beauty, and even humanity, on show. These may be flawed creations, perhaps the artist is saying, but they are also a reflection of us.

In particular, We Are Family pushes all the maximum discomfort buttons, with what appears to be a human-pig hybrid suckling a litter of hybrid babies. Yet on closer inpection we see that this is a mother whose concern for her children is clear. And, to twist the knife further, in her commentary the artist points out the probable real-world use for such a hybrid: organ transplants. Does the mother realise the fate of her babies?

But enough of our attempt at serious art commentary in an artificially cool and monotonic voice! It’s quite hard to sustain. So go visit In Another Life at the City Gallery, and while you are there, check out Michael Smither – the Wonder Years (19 February to 5 June 2006, free entry) for a retrospective of one of our most important and best-loved painters (although in our case this must be saved for our next spare lunch hour).