21 May 2013

Skywhale Rises Over Australia

The Australian state of Canberra is 100 years old this year.  As part of the on-going celebrations the Skywhale – a 34 meter long hot balloon was commissioned to symbolize… well, a lot of Canberrans aren’t exactly sure what.  Skywhale has hardly gotten off the ground before she is the center of very divided opinion.

Patricia Piccinini, the artist, designed Skywhale three years ago and it has this week come to life in the Australian skies.  She conceptualized a creature which left the ocean and became a mammal.  Then, unlike the whale which returned to the sea, the Skywhale took to the air instead.  This idea of a different evolutionary path reflects the city of Canberra which has made every effort to blend in with its natural environs.  The natural and artificial come together.

Image Credit Flickr User richardcnorman
On paper the idea might sound a little obscure but the artist, who normally likes to backdrop her work with a complete history, is this time being deliberately vague so that people can make one up themselves.   What isn’t hazy is the price of the project which came in at AU$300,000 (US$pretty much the same).

Image Credit Flickr User ArronMaras
Many Canberrans have taken to Skywhale immediately (as I must confess, have I).  A number simply don’t get the symbolism – and they could have a point. Others yet see the ten large udders as something of a step too far. I just adore the benign look on Skywhale’s face – a gentle giant taking in her surroundings, her own sense of curiosity as much a source of amusement as the furor she has created.

Image Credit Flickr User Spelio
Giant is hardly the word for her - she is 34 meters long and 23 meters high. That is at least twice as big as your average hot-air balloon.  She is also a heavy Sheila, weighing in at half a tonne.  Her creation used more than 3.5km of fabric.  It took a team of 16 people seven months and more than 3.3 million stitches to design and make Skywhale.

Image Credit Flickr User Sarah Pisani
Image Credit Flickr User richardcnorman
She’s built for travel and as such Skywhale will be floating gracefully above the skies of Canberra for the next six months. The Centenary of Canberra Committee also hope that she will visit the other Australian states as part of the celebrations. Who can say where Skywhale's travels will take her?

Image Credit Flickr User Spelio

Kuriositas would like to thank Flickr Users Joccoaa Australian Photographer (official website here), Sarah Pisani and richardcnorman for their kind permission to use their photographs.  Please visit their Flickr Photostreams by clicking on the links. All copyright is reserved by the photographers and still belongs wholly with the photographers.

First Image Credit Flickr User Walt74