21 October 2019

Probing the polls: 18 is plenty old enough to vote and Skywhale is coming home

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Skywhale is returning home to Canberra. Does the many-breasted cetacean make you happy or annoyed? Photo: File.

Despite our reputation as a social petri dish for the nation, it seems many Canberrans draw the line at lowering the voting age.

The Greens suggested that we should make voting optional from 16 onwards, although registration to vote remains compulsory at 18. Last week’s poll asked whether this was a good idea?

Your options were to vote Yes, the future is in their hands. Let them have their say. That option received 229 from a total of 708 votes cast. The alternative was No, 18 is early enough to have some common sense. That received the substantial majority of votes on 479.

This week, we’re talking about the return of one of Canberra’s most controversial pieces of public art ever.

Skywhale, by internationally renowned Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, was commissioned by the ACT Government for our 2013 centenary celebrations.

The many-breasted mammalian inflatable hovered gently over the lake, surprising and delighting some, while horrifying and confusing others.

With a head like a turtle, a body like a whale and ten pendant breasts, it was hard to miss. Following the centenary commission, Skywhale flew in Japan, Ireland and Brazil, acquiring an international following.

Piccinini was wounded by the strength of the opposition.

“To me, it’s a very strong, maternal figure and in some ways, I valorise maternal figures in my work, and the strength and beauty that they embody,” she said.

Skywhale helped cement her international contemporary art reputation and Piccinini was the subject of a massively successful retrospective exhibition in Brazil attended by 250,000 people in Sao Paulo.

In the intervening years, Skywhale has been operated by Kiff Saunders, director of Global Ballooning Australia, who has also flown her in the Yarra Valley.

Now, thanks to an anonymous donation to the National Gallery of Australia, the gigantic hot air balloon will call Canberra home and will reappear in the capital’s skies in March for the balloon festival. She’ll then begin a ‘valedictory lap’ around the country.

The National Gallery is working with Piccinini to develop an online education and learning facility, so when people see the Skywhale they can learn more about it online and learn why it was made.

NGA director Nick Mitzevitch told Region Media that he’s a huge fan of the airborne cetacean, adding that Skywhale is a major artwork that can also be taken to regions that don’t have an art gallery.

Now that Skywhale will fly again in Canberra, we’re asking whether you are you happy to see her back at home?

Skywhale will fly again in Canberra after being acquired by the National Gallery. Are you happy to see her back at home?

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Can someone explain to me why, having paid $300,000 for it, we didn’t own Skywhale ? Poor contract drafting by the ACT Government?

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