Holy Duck :: A Love Letter

January 21st 2013

Photo: Jamie Williams

It’s hard to say anything about Rubber Duck. It says it all without uttering a squeak. But I’m going to say some stuff anyway, because it’s the fact that the duck requires no elaboration, conscious interpretation or blurb prattling on about its complex artistic significance, that make it all the more awesome.

I came into the city to see the duck. Made the walk from Central with a slight sense of anticipation (only slight, nothing too weird… it’s just a duck). Walked along that water-feature-y corridor-y section that spills out into the harbour with my eyes peeled for the big yellow hide that I knew would be bobbing around there somewhere. And there it was. This duck makes you happy. It makes you happy straight away.

This selfless little thing smiled through forty-seven degree heat and the shitty, overcast days that followed.

Such happiness is intoxicating and highly contagious. It is a supremely cute, giant object that goes beyond being a sculpture. What I mean by that is, in the middle of the harbour, admired and pointed at by babies, tourists, suits, workers and art appreciators alike, it’s almost too accessible to be an artwork.

When you look at it, you think, ‘Oh hey there’s a giant rubber duck,’ and then the uncontrollable smiling begins. Some have sought out the experience. Others have beautifully stumbled into it, like tripping over into a soft patch of ripe strawberries and not even getting any smeared on your shirt. It celebrates the everyday, drawing attention to the joy and simplicity of overlooked objects, by literally making itself huge. It recalls childhood, the naked humanity and carefree honesty of the bath. It is relatable, deeply personal whilst simultaneously universal, erasing the limiting confines of culture, language, age and experience. It is limitless in interpretation through sheer simplicity and mass appeal. By being a big duck in a public setting, it allows the audience to be affected by it to whatever degree they chose, voluntarily connecting with it, or simply observing at (very big and cute) face value.

No particular insight is needed to understand the duck, and yet in my eyes it is full of meaning. It levels the playing field of art, bringing it to everyone and eliminating the white-walled, hushed and stark administration. You forget that what you’re looking at is a piece of art, it’s too effortless and fun, and this is my kind of postmodernity.

“It relieves everyday tensions, as well as defining them.
It’s purpose is to do no more than amaze.”
– Florentijn Hofman (Artist)

I’m pretty deeply in love with Rubber Duck, and if the explosion on my Instagram feed is anything to go by, I think I’ll be fighting a few people for its inflatable heart. Lucky for me there’s quite a bit of him or her to go around. Hofman deserves great applause for creating a work that has traversed global waters since 2007, bringing with it nothing by smiles and uncomplicated beauty. If you haven’t yet, you really need to stand before this floating yellow god to appreciate the warm, calm happiness it spreads across its worshippers. You won’t be getting any down off this duck, but you can get down with it and its bright, overwhelming positivity.

WHAT :: Rubber Duck by Florentijn Hofman
WHERE :: Darling Harbour (as part of Sydney Festival 2013)
WHEN :: Ends Wednesday 23rd, so get a ducking move on
PRICE :: As if making your day and extinguishing all of Sydney’s sorrows wasn’t enough… it’s free.


 Read more from Madeleine Clarke


Read more from FBi Radio