A 40-Foot Rubber Duck Kicks Off a Pittsburgh Festival

The Rubber Duck Fesitval of Firsts-Pittsburg PA-Untapped CitiesRubber Duck, here in Osaka in 2009, will make its way up the Allegheny River this September. Source: Studio Florentijn Hofman.

What warrants the closing of a significant waterway these days? On September 27th, the reason behind Pittsburgh’s planned shutdown of the Allegheny River will be the arrival of a 40-foot tall and 30-foot wide rubber duck, which will grace the waterway with its presence for a few hours during the city’s Festival of Firsts.

Rubber Duck was created by artist Florentijn Hofman from the Netherlands, who is known for creating enormous animals and placing them in public spaces to provoke interaction with them. The duck has visited more places than some Untapped contributors; it’s been seen in Amsterdam, Lommel in Belgium, Osaka, Sydney Harbor, São Paulo, and Hong Kong. Its arrival in Pittsburgh for the city’s third Festival of Firsts will mark the duck’s first time in the U.S.

According to the festival’s website, “The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t have a political connotation. The friendly, floating, four-story-high Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve mondial tensions as well as define them.” Most people would be hard-pressed to find fault with this, but in Belgium, a group of vandals stabbed the duck 42 times, and in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, the duck mysteriously deflated due to speculated foul (no puns here) play. And it did take on political connotations in China, when one savvy Photoshopper used images of the duck to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and evade Chinese internet censors.

Pittsburgh’s Festival of Firsts, and Rubber Duck‘s launch at the West End Bridge, begin on September 27th. The festival runs until October 26th, and will host a wide array of international companies and artists who will be premiering work that has never been seen before in the United States. Take a look at their upcoming performances at the Festival of Firsts here.

Get in touch with the author @laraelmayan.