Stillborn Skywhale


A friend and I went to see the Skywhale by Patricia Piccinini at Trans Arts Tokyo 2014 in Kanda. Piccinini, an Australian sculptor,  was commissioned by the city of Canberra to try a new medium and design a hot air balloon to celebrate the city’s centenary. What an honour! Trans Arts decided to ride that wave of popularity and bring the Skywhale to Tokyo, since it is kawaii after all.


We got there around 5:30; the event was supposed to start at 5:00. Absolutely IMG_5153nothing was happening. Festival? What festival? Since when do food trucks count as a cosmopolitan arts festival? Oops! That’s right! It was in Tokyo. That means lots of PR and not necessarily much else.  They had not even taken the balloon out; they were still testing the wind one hour later.

This so-called festival was being held DSC01090in an empty lot that was completely surrounded by tall buildings, and a typhoon was supposedly going to hit southern Japan. My guess is that this added up to a strong and possibly unpredictable wind. The balloon was not necessarily going on a voyage with passengers but it was still very close to the neighbouring buildings when afloat. I cannot imagine any of the neighbours being thrilled about a giant eye SPLAT against their window.

DSC01093The organizers finally got the okay to drag the fish out and started filling it with hot air. How long would it take to fill up a huge whale? Much less time than you would expect. Just as it started to get exciting, they stopped. The winds were  too strong.The Skywhale was stillborn.

Were we disappointed? Surprisingly not. While waiting, we realized that all of the commotion was about a hot air balloon. I have been to the Saga Balloon Festival. They are amazing, but this was just one more. Trans Arts also seemed to follow the precedent set by the Roppongi Art Night and not live up to its potential. Also, the attempts at inflating the Skywhale were probably more interesting than seeing the full-blown fish. The fins as they were inflating made giant nipples which in turn became interesting sculptures of their own. Funky and cool beats kawaii any day in my books.


Love the shadowy person with the cell phone in the lower right and how these giant nipples contrast with the hard edges of the buildings in the back.




DSC01115 Very tragic! Look at that face! The artist did a marvelous job regardless of the outcome.



2 thoughts on “Stillborn Skywhale

  1. Bravo! A Woody Allen movie, “Sleeper”, I think featured a giant breast that had somehow escaped the confines of a bra and was ravaging the countryside. People were panicking until a gigantic cup was erected to attract and eventually contain this roadside menace. 🙂 I think the visual shock value of the bared breast was more astonishing years ago when a form of pseudo prudishness reigned in Hollywood. Thanks for sharing.


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