It’s sometimes said that Sydney is a city without a real sense of humour – and many would agree there’s not a great deal to laugh about these days. It’s more a case of tears and despair when it comes to the urban environment – the never ending disruption of the light rail, the inevitable traffic gridlock, the plight of the homeless and the absence of a vibrant night time culture.
So on those rare cases when something visibly humorous crops up in the CBD or surrounds, it’s a genuine relief – a chance to brush off that overcoat of angst and have a good old chuckle. Remember when the giant yellow duckie, the work of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, floated into the Harbour in 2013 for the Sydney Festival. We all had a giggle and somehow its presence brought joy to our daily grind, appealing to not only youngsters but the child still lingering in many mature adults.
Similarly in 1995 when Jeff Koon’s giant topiary Puppy, took up residence outside the MCA at Circular Quay, its towering presence was more than just a photo opportunity. Some might have seen it as ‘art’, but for the majority of Sydneysiders it was nothing but a good old fashioned piece of fun, regardless of how much the flowering canine cost to erect in the first place.
Australians obviously have an affinity with the ‘big’, be it an inflatable or something huge made out of the unusual, It’s part of a national tradition of The Big Pineapple, The Big Banana, The Big Merino and The Big Banana. None of these big things are ever taken seriously, they are essentially self deprecating by nature, but we embrace them like some treasured item of kitsch.
When a remarkable 250,000 punters turned out in London recently to protest against the UK visit of Donald Trump, the focal piece was the giant blow up ’Trump Baby’. As it floated above the thousands of everyday Brits out to express their disgust and dislike for the current American President, it also introduced that element of fun – an outpouring of ridicule and mockery for the buffoonish, albeit scary as hell, Trump.
There are now plans to take the Trump Baby to the US although a New Jersey woman, Kathie Kit Conklin, has vowed to shoot it down – even starting a GoFundMe page to pay for her bail in the case of her being arrested. Presidential assassination is nothing new in the US but the slaying of an inflatable effigy would certainly break new ground. There is of course a bizarre irony in Trump supporters (and no doubt NRA members) taking pot shots at a floating caricature of somebody they hold so dearly.
Here in Australia we are a lot more civilized and surely the Trump Baby would get a similar reception to the big yellow Duckie and the topiary mutt. It would no doubt outrage the pundits of Fox News, but the Lord Mayor Clover Moore would certainly win votes if she hosted a civic reception for the blimp and allowed it to fly for a week or two from the front of the Town Hall – certainly much more of a conversation piece that that the wretched Cloud Arch.
If we attached a hot air balloon style basket, the Trump Baby could be flown all over Sydney, bringing not only joy and humour to the masses but an enlightened degree of political sensibility. Once it had outlived its novelty it could be launched with great fanfare into the stratosphere, a destination many would advocate for the real Donald Trump!