- Arts and Design
Giant Inflatable Duck leaving Hong Kong for the United States
Gigantic rubber duck
Gigantic duck to set sail for new frontiers
The giant inflatable duck which has been residing in Victoria Harbour is due to leave tonight, June 9, 2013. Since its debut in 2007, the spectacularly overgrown bath-toy has been to over thirteen cities in nine countries. The 54-foot-tall sculpture appears to be next slated to make an appearance in the United States. The destination in the States, which has been a closely held secret, may be in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The friendly yellow duck has been towering over the citizens and waters of Hong Kong since May 2, 2013 and has understandably attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. The duck, according to the creator, Florentijn Hofman, is not only a symbol of peace and a way to spread joy, but also a catalyst to help people enjoy the uniqueness of things and appreciate art.
Duck sponsorship and economic impact
The duck has a different sponsor in each location it visits. The organizer and sponsor for Victoria Harbour appearance was the promotional genius of Harbour City, a shopping mall. In a strange and ironic twist of fate, the mall appears to have sponsored this massive yellow duck to promote additional revenue and retail traffic, in seemingly direct opposition of what the artist intended.
In fact, many nearby locations appear to have taken advantage of their proximity to this galactic fowl. Restaurants served mini duck sculptures created from mashed taro and shrimp, hotels touted their “duck views” for promotional purposes, and the locally housed toy rubber duck manufacturer has noted an increase of inquiries and sales.
"Yellow duck" search censored and Tiananmen Square
The duck propaganda does not stop there, however. Recently, China has censored the search-term “yellow duck” on its most popular microblog, Sina Weibo. Those wishing to bypass the censorship surrounding Tiananmen Square have come up with some rather creative methods for doing just that. In an attempt to reference the iconic image “Tank Man” taken in 1989, the tanks have been replaced with images of ducks and the picture widely released. The doctored photo made the rounds until the government restricted the image and duck-related search terms.
Tiananmen Square, if one recalls, was the location of the student-led protests which resulted in what has become known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The military was ordered to halt protests and did so forcibly, with assault rifles and tanks. Numerous casualties resulted as unarmed citizens attempted to block the advance of the military on the student demonstrators. The students had occupied the square in Beijing for seven weeks, since April 15, 1989. The government condemned the protests and has maintained prohibition and censorship of all discussion about the events. Because of the lack of information, the actual death toll remains unknown. Estimates range from several hundred to upwards of several thousand deaths.
Because it was an already trending topic, the inflatable duck was a means to disseminate additional media referencing the 1989 censored incident. Additional methods have been used, from promoting a lego scene of the same iconic image to the usage of the fictitious date, May 35.
While the tanks in the 1989 Tiananmen Square photo were replaced with duck images, the other duck photos circulating the web are not mock-ups. As unbelievable as the pictures appear, the duck truly is as large and unbelievable as the pictures suggest.
The artist - Florentijn Hofman
While many people have found varied uses for the 13-story-tall inflatable artwork duck, the artist maintains that there is no political connotation and that it is a catalyst to connect people to art. He would like this free public art to be enjoyed by as many as possible.
"Be amazed, be creative. Look at it with your eyes and absorb the energy of the work in this location," he said.
Florentijn Hofman is not a one-trick wonder artist. He has successfully shown numerous large projects including a work entitled “Slow Slugs”. These slugs were made out of 40,000 plastic bags and were on display in Angers, France last fall. Another massive undertaking, “the Steelman” depicted a gigantic bear holding a pillow under his arm. A formerly rough neighborhood in Amsterdam was the host of this sprayed concrete artwork.
Hofman, born in 1977, received a Master’s degree from Art College in 2001. He has shown works in Mexico, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Germany and more. From inflatables to dirigibles to architecture, he has done it all and has done it large. In 2010, he created the 49-foot-long sculpture “Fat Monkey”. This huge monkey, which stretched out in a park in Brazil, was cobbled together from 10,000 colorful flip-flops.
In 2004-2006, the artist brought attention to a row of houses scheduled for demolition by painting them bright blue in their entirety. Hoffman’s projects tend to be labor-intensive and eye-catching.
“My sculptures cause an uproar” he states. Hofman believes that when people stop to look at his work they talk to other spectators. He contends that these people are connecting as they view his pieces and therefore promoting unity and peace.
A massive concrete bear with a pillow, a row of bright blue houses, and a giant yellow duck - could these be the harbingers of peace and unity? It appears the artist not only wishes it to be so but also believes.