Sour article today, while visiting the Kitschy Yellow Rubber Duck in Keelung…
I have never really wished to see the Yellow Duck-which has become some kind of celebrity in Taiwan, and I was even making fun of the seemingly deepless passion of Taiwanese for it, when my girlfriend reminded me that the biggest yellow Duck IN THE WORLD is actually in France… So I accepted to go and was actually quite interested to know what I would find there.
Let’s rewind just a bit. In 2007, an artist from the Netherlands decided to create a giant rubber duck and take it on a cruise around the world; his aim was to promote joy and remind people of their childhood. I have to say that no matter how commercial this project looks, the impression is quite well done, and the huge duck, put in a familiar environment, produces a striking effect. It peacefully floats, as if ignoring the thousands of tourists in the crowd gathered to see it.
The « free Yellow Duck Shuttle Bus » from Real-Estate Promoters
But that’s it about joy and childhood memories. As we were approaching Keelung Harbor, we were lured by a giant sign for a free shuttle to the duck-traffic is really bad and parking quite difficult. So we found ourselves in a shuttle and couldn’t help but be stunned at the show: this was by no way a public shuttle, but rather a hardly disguised promotional shuttle for a real-estate promoter building his new « Shangri-La » project in Keelung.
During the few minutes leading to the harbor, we learnt that it may take only 20 minutes from Keelung to go to 101, that the work of real-estate agencies is really hard, they need to build the highest quality buildings you know, we had a dissertation about the price of real-estate in Taiwan concluding that it is probably best and wise to invest in Shangri-La real estate in Keelung, and to really make the point, we had a pit-stop at another real-estate complex being built by the same group. It was funny to see how dirty it was before even being finished, and to contemplate the greek-italian-fake-marble style that was fitting very well in this environment.
I understand that it is a great service to drive me to the Duck, but we are really far from the idea promoted by the artist, and what I find painful is that it reminds me of the aggressive shameless comportment of people in China when they do business, I guess it is a way to open my eyes on the changes emerging in Taiwan.
Quite a few mishaps
In case you didn’t read the news, the Yellow Rubber Duck has made the headlines quite a lot since it arrived in Keelung:
- the Duck burst/died on December 31st, had surgery and then finally revived on time for me to go to admire it this weekend. Click here for the story.
- the Duck went black due to pollution and bad weather, triggering a lot of jokes around the internet. I also found a post of someone wishing the duck becomes entirely black, because it would look more Taiwanese this way… Click here for the story.
- there was fierce dissatisfaction from the artist as local manufacturers, disappointed by poor showings, tried to create their own copycat of the Duck to attract crowds. Click here for the story.
- During the few minutes I spent with the duck, I was overwhelmed by the giant aggressive commercialization of the product that had little to do with the original aim of the artist. All kind of cheap plasticky ducks were on sale in the exhibition area, nothing to do with the original, poor quality, weird names like fellow duck or robber duck to avoid copyright issues (my own guess), and all kind of non-related noise like people parading with drums, gods on holiday, etc.
Kitsch as an eye Opener
My conclusion is kind of a mixed bag:
- i have no affinity to this kind of yellow duck, it didn’t bring me back any kind of childhood memory, nor give me any joy to see it. But most Taiwanese I saw where pleased to take pictures of themselves with the Duck on a bright sunny day, so I guess it is OK, and I had myself a good time with my friends.
- on the contrary, I was struck by such an aggressive commercialization of this product that made me understand that Taiwan sometimes has nothing to envy to China in terms of making fools out of visitors, and poor organization.
But the bottom-line is that Kitsch, as especially well represented by this Yellow Duck, often hides misery and the tragedies of life, and sure enough, while people and Taiwanese in particular can choose to see the Kitsch, the shiny colors of this exhibition, it has also made quite obvious that it is hard to hide pollution, intellectual property disputes, greed, and disorganization that went along with the event.
Also, watching at all those people watching the Yellow Duck without really knowing why-I know I am part of it since I am writing an article about it myself, I couldn’t help but think about the Golden Veal adoration in the Bible, or if you prefer a display of the sheer attraction of fame and money on each people’s sense. It was a really interesting experience, because even if it makes no sense, it is hard to resist to this phenomenon.
So as a conclusion, and to remain in the same ducky topic, I recommend you another Duck if you are bored with Google constantly recording your habits in anything, posting in your name, modifying your pictures and sharing your email address with people you don’t know, it is called DuckDuckGo, and may be giving the world of yellow ducks some redemption? https://duckduckgo.com/