Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Duck Up: Florentijn Hofman, Dubai And The Giant Rubber Duck That Never Was

“Florentijn Hofman: Rubber Duck: Hong Kong 201...
This Is The Real Duck (Photo credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML)
Dubai used to be famous for attracting tribute bands. You'd hear announcements like 'Riverdance is coming to Dubai!' and get all excited before finding out it was actually 'Riverdancers: The Tribute', consisting of two wee girls and a couple of tired blokes clacking away in a weary parody of the massive Oirish spectacle that awed the world.

There was even a joke about it. A bloke goes home on leave only to be accused down at his local of living somewhere lacking in night life and gigs. "We've got gigs!" he contends. "Quo played Dubai last month!"
"What Status Quo?"
"No, State Is Quo. It's a tribute act."
"Who else, then?"
"The Stones!"
"The Rolling Stones?"
"No, the Roly Polying Stones. They're bigger."
And so on until he finally, with exasperation, cries out, "And Duran Duran!"
"What, the Her Name Is Rio people?"
"Yeah, them."

That, of course, was then - the UAE has seen plenty of headlining acts since and the days of the tribute band have gone. Or have they? Because this week we've seen a new first for the City That Likes To Set Guinness Book of Records World Records - a tribute duck. It's not the actual duck, but a copy of it. Because there is actually an actual duck - the work of Dutch installation artist Florentijn Hofman.

Eagle-eyed (award winning!) blogger and culture wonk Hind Mezaina first caught the whiff of sulphur surrounding the announcement, by the UAE franchisee of car washing company Geowash, that Hofman's globally famous duck was going to be coming to the UAE. Geowash had apparently been bandying it about that this was that duck as opposed to a tribute duck, but quickly backed down when questioned. It was a tad late - local media had already announced the event in the usual breathless tones.

The 18 metre duck that set sail on Dubai Creek to coincide with the UAE's 42nd national day was, in fact, an imitation duck made in China. Or, if you prefer, a tribute duck. Hofman's reportedly hopping mad that someone nicked his idea - and rightly so: his giant yellow duckie has been raising smiles around the world for months now and it's clearly a unique and original concept.

7Days gleefully led today on the fake duck farrago, something of a PR disaster for Geowash which had apparently thought up the duck stunt as a way of raising awareness of water scarcity. The company's Facebook page is quick to link to post-'clarification' stories about the duck, but omits to mention earlier stories that clearly state the Dubai duck is Hofman's Duck. In fact, one link to 'The National' actually links to Gulf News - because The National's story mentions the original dubious provenance. Mind you, Geowash also blithely makes use on its Facebook page of images of Donald and Daffy Duck - trademarked properties of Disney and Warner Brothers respectively. One can only presume they do so under license as they would understand, as a franchise business, the value of intellectual prop...

Oh, never mind...
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