Boston is experiencing a bold moment for public art due to many long term planning projects coming to fruition and a new political climate that favors the arts. One example is the recent installation by the Australian artist, Amanda Parer. Her five monumental inflatable rabbit sculptures titled “Intrude” appeared in late July at the newly minted outdoor space, called the Lawn on D. Located in South Boston, adjacent to the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, this ArtLAB is fast becoming a go to place for pop up cultural life in the heart of the city.
Due to the digital buzz surrounding “Intrude” it drew a huge crowd and free parking was nearly a mile away, but the installation did not disappoint. Over 10,000 people saw the event over its four day exhibition in Boston but at least 5000 were there on the night we went, enjoying the beer garden, the live music and the swings as a backdrop to the centerpiece: “Intrude.” It was a great turn out for a public art event. The giant inflatable rabbits were lit from within. At a monumental scale, their gestures of preening, standing on their hind legs and laying down took on a life of their own. Intrigued, I set out to find out how these rabbits came to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and to learn more about the Australian artist Amanda Parer.
I met with Kate Gilbert, Curator of The Lawn on D ArtLAB, a program of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) that is managed by HR&A Advisors, to learn more about the project. The area was developed as a temporary public green space by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority with a budget of 2.2 million dollars for The Lawn on D and related programming for the 2015 season (this includes the artLAB). For the past 18 months, the dynamic duo Chris Wangro, HR& A programming consultant, “Impresario” and Creative Director for The Lawn on D, and Kate Gilbert, have brought in cutting edge installations such as “Swingtime” and “Pentalum” as well as exciting installations by local artists Tory Fair and Steed Taylor. “Intrude” is Wangro’s third successful project. Notable for the use of light and space, each project has had a unique focus on play and inviting the audience to engage with their bodies. Chris and I spoke on the phone and he told me more about his role working with the MCCA, his background in producing spectacles, parades and festivals, and his particular fascination with inflatables. In order to run art projects on this scale in Boston, he has reached out to partners in other cities.
Whether you approach the giant rabbits of Amanda Parer as Easter lawn ornaments, archetypal fertility objects or larger than life cartoon characters that sprang to life from a Beatrix Potter novel, there is something very compelling about the sculptures that resonates with audiences on a global scale. “Intrude” first appeared at The Vivid Festival of Light in Sydney Australia in 2014. Since then they have traveled to London, UK; Ghent, Belgium; Gothenburg,Sweden and Paris, France. Accessible with their familiar forms, and soft surfaces, the rabbits are expertly crafted at factories in China. Each sculpture incorporates fans inside the inflatable structures to keep them continuously blown up. Also hidden from view is their light sources and their 500 kg sandbags inside each one that holds them down.
What I learned from speaking with Amanda Parer is that due to the popularity of “Intrude” the artist has fabricated 3 editions of the rabbits: one that travels exclusively in Australia, one for Europe and one for the USA. Boston was very honored to be the first stop on the forthcoming USA tour planned for 2016 in New York, Houston, Denver and Los Angeles courtesy of ArtsBrookfield. The tour will be sponsored by Brookfield Office Properties, one of the largest developers of commercial space in the world, who also played a major role in bringing the rabbits to Boston. Chris Wangro brought Amanda Parer’s work to the attention of Brookfield, who was able to bring her work to the USA.
Amanda Parer graduated from art school feeling confident of her skills but unsure of what she had to say as an artist in her work. When she had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands with her uncle, David Parer, it opened her eyes to the diversity of species on the planet in an isolated environment. This tour became pivotal in her intellectual and aesthetic development as an artist.
In Australia, the rabbits are not a native species. They were introduced by Europeans to the continent in the 18th century. In much the same way that white settlers negatively impacted the indigenous populations, the rabbits have “intruded” on the natural landscape of Australia. Every year they cause millions of dollars in crop damage. Unlike the USA, whose land has been heavily farmed, forested and engineered to meet human needs, the landscape of Australia and Tasmania where Amanda grew up is largely untouched, making the havoc that these feral rabbits wreak on the environment that much more dramatic. The installation of five monumental inflatable rabbits embraces both the light, fun-filled side of these creatures, and the darker overtones that the sight of these creatures implies. “Intrude” is a way of bringing serious environmental concerns into public space for dialogue and thoughtful engagement with the hope of making the world a better place.
In conclusion, I believe local arts organizations and institutions have a two-fold mission: to bring in world-class art and to provide a platform for local artists at all levels of their careers. The first provides world-class cultural experiences for the city and the second creates deep civic pride. Thankfully, Boston has Kate Gilbert and Chris Wangro, two sensitive, deeply ambitious and persuasive curators raising the bar for Boston public art projects. One can only wonder what these two will dream up next?
By Donna Dodson
You can catch Amanda Parer’s “Intrude” installation at Kosice & Batislava, Slovakia in Oct. 2015 and the forthcoming USA tour planned for 2016 in New York, Houston, Denver and Los Angeles courtesy of ArtsBrookfield.
Amanda Parer on Social Media:
@AmandaParer, Instagram – https://instagram.com/amandaparer/ – #AmandaParer