A KIWI, an elephant and an Australian native water rat – now there’s a fine ethnic mix although I can’t say whether the elephant is Indian or African.
If that sounds like it needs explanation, it does – just as spying a five-metre high elephant standing on its head looks curiously random, although this is the South Bank and it is right outside the Gallery of Modern Art.
It’s bronze and it’s called “The World Turns” and was installed near the river in the shadow of GOMA in 2011-12.
It was commissioned to mark the fifth anniversary of the gallery’s opening in 2006 and 20 years of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art and financed by the good citizens of Queensland to the tune of about $1 million.
On closer inspection, the elephant is looking into the eyes of a rat or more precisely a kuril or native water rat (it gave its name to the nearby Kurilpa Bridge).
A nearby bronze chair is also part of the installation, and as the artist no doubt intended, begs you to sit on it while contemplating the upside down elephant.
So that’s the elephant and the rat.
Then we have the Kiwi, its creator New Zealander Michael Parekowhai known for “the use of wry humour and his deft combination of popular culture, art, literature and history”.
So what’s the elephant and the rat all about?
“The Kuril is the real elephant in the room and the real animator of the spectator,” according to the artist. “It is the Kuril who is the caretaker and who is responsible for upending this elephant with all its cultural and intellectual weight.
“A bronze chair invites visitors to participate in the work, acknowledging the central role of the audience in any encounter with art.”
Aboriginal elder, Uncle Des Sandy, says the kuril is instrinsically linked to the mangroves on the adjacent shoreline that winds around Kurilpa Point (near the bridge).
It feeds and shelters within the strong tentacle-like roots of the mangroves.
Here the kuril is going about its business even though it shifts the world, represented by the upturned elephant, from its axis.
Take a seat and contemplate a rat turning an elephant on its head. It’s also a fabulous picture opportunity.