David Broker
Director of Research,
Office of Moribund Collections,
Office of Cataclysmic Tourism
Office of Public Erections

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Office of Public Erections


Report #1

Donald Duck, Picton.

Duck against nature

Picton is a small town facing Queen Charlotte Sound. As the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds and the South Island of New Zealand it is a stop over for tourists eager to experience some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. It is also centre for sight seeing, fishing, pleasure boating, kayaking and once, one could swim in the safe, calm and cool waters of the Sound.

Walking along the foreshore one tranquil evening at sunset my calm was abruptly shattered by a decaying "statue" of Donald Duck, its painted surface blistered and peeling, the result of exposure to constant and corrosive sea breezes. Instantly, I was transported from the province of natural beauty into an environment of vacuous artifice via a melancholy slice of Disney World.

While this astonishing piece of public sculpture is situated in a childrens' playground, its incongruity in relation to the Sound is in no way compromised. Its status as a public artwork (albeit for the kids) lies in both its conceptual and "decorative" function. I imagined that perhaps Donald Duck plays a similarly heroic role for children as a statue of Queen Victoria might have for adults. It is not, in other words, a plaything but rather it exists to enhance an environment of play. Or in other words it provides atmosphere and its spectacular backdrop is neither here nor there.

In this context one might imagine that Donald Duck exemplifies humanity’s struggle against nature. It is a struggle that this sculpture would have one believe that humanity has lost. The spectacular scenery upon which the duck has turned its back highlights an enduring dread of that which cannot be tamed. To fully understand this extraordinary "work" we must view the protagonist within the context of a duck who has turned its back of the water and thus nature itself. This is a duck with human pretensions that can scarcely manage a quack; created by humans for humans. While it is important to remember that it is appropriate for a duck in a sailor suit to be situated near the sea we must also note that here, Donald is a duck stripped of his "duckness".