Events

‘Skywhale’ returns home for Canberra Day ahead of Skywhalepapa’s arrival

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Wait… are those breasts?

On Monday, the strange and enigmatic Skywhale hot-air balloon returned home after nearly seven years of international travel for Canberra Day celebrations.

Joined by a giant inflated T-Rex during the week-long Canberra Balloon Spectacular, the 30-metre, 10-breasted balloon alighted at dawn when it was inflated on the lawns of Old Parliament House to the delight of thousands.

Skywhale did not fly due to poor weather, according to reports, but inspired ABC Canberra presenter Paula Kruger to turn her Labrador Otis into a sky-pup, adorned with balloons, to resemble Skywhale.

Created by internationally renowned Canberran artist Patricia Piccinini, Skywhale first flew to mark Canberra’s centenary in May 2013, and returns after tours in Ireland, Japan, Brazil and Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

If, like us, you’re absolutely gutted to have missed the chance to see Skywhale, don’t fret – the iconic inflatable balloon is set to be joined by her companion ‘Skywhalepapa’ in May, which will be launched near the National Gallery of Australia.

Skywhalepapa sketch by Patricia Piccinini (National Gallery of Australia)

Described as “taller and more vertical” than Skywhale, Piccinini told Guardian Australia he was not necessarily Skywhale’s husband, but would be “surrounded by a group of Skywhale children”.

Together they form a skywhale family that will be launched near the National Gallery of Australia, taking flight over Canberra seven times during an exhibition period on the following dates:

  • Sat 2 May – Parliamentary Triangle (TBC)
  • Sat 16 May – Woden area (TBC)
  • Sat 30 May – Parliamentary Triangle (TBC)
  • Sat 27 June – Parliamentary Triangle (TBC)
  • Sat 11 July – Tuggeranong area (TBC)
  • Sat 25 July – Parliamentary Triangle (TBC).

“The sculptures will then float across the skies of Australia as a National Gallery travelling exhibition.”

The National Gallery of Australia describes Piccinini as an artis interested in cross-species interaction, biopolitics, and the environment as well as the emotional relationships our bodies have with others.

A sensory display in the Tim Fairfax Learning Gallery expands the ideas embodied in Skywhale and Skywhalepapa, including anthropomorphism – or the tendency to ascribe human characteristics and emotions to animals and objects – and empathy and the changing definitions of family.

Speaking of the design of the original Skywhale, Piccinini told Guardian Australia it was “always about maternity and care”.

“It’s never my intention to shock in my work,” she said.

“I understand that sometimes it is quite intense, but that’s not Skywhale … People seem to be amazingly freaked out by breasts [but they were] not presented in a sexualised way.”

Featured image: Skywhale takes to the skies in Canberra on Monday, 9 March 2020 (iStock.com/Daniiielc)



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