When Great Britain loaded up 11 ships in 1787 – including six convict transports – they delivered to Australia something much more dangerous than thieves, perjurers, swindlers, robbers and assailants. The First Fleet also transported rats and parasites (bedbugs, lice, cockroaches and fleas) but – as it turns out – probably the most dangerous cargo on board was six rabbits.
“Australia has a lot of endemic, unique flora and fauna,” says Australian artist Amanda Parer. Over the years, and with the help of hunting rabbits being released into the wild, the population has grown to hundreds of millions (possibly even billions) causing the extinction of several plants and animals. “It almost sets an example of being a delicate ecosystem and how the slightest changes can cause great destruction.”
But rabbits also are cute: they deliver candy to believers on Easter morning and they play a big role in storybooks. “We have pet rabbits, and I know how mean they can be,” says Parer. “[They] can also be cuddly. I’ve got nothing personal, it’s more an example of how little we understand the natural world.”
Parer is sending her monumental installation to town – a collection of oversized rabbits sewn in white nylon and lit from within that offers a creative way of showing both the dark and light sides of rabbitdom. Titled “Intrude,” it's part of a four-city tour presented by Arts Brookfield, the cultural arm of real estate corporation Brookfield. Chris Wangro serves as the lead producer of the installation’s North American stops, which includes New York (April 17-30), Los Angeles (June 5-11) and Denver (June 17-26).
Her five original sculptures – in varying poses – are being joined by two new sculptures commissioned by Arts Brookfield, each scaling more than two stories in height. “When I first made models of the rabbits, composition was important,” says Parer, who wanted them to look like they were hanging around together. “One is jumping up, others are lying down lounging, curious, preening, relaxed.”
She says that people react to the installation in different ways. “In 2014, in Sydney, media preview night, I inflated them and I saw a little child sheepishly approach, they're cute from afar but as you get closer, there’s an air of menace. A woman ran in cuddling them and took off her shoes. It turns adults into children.”
She doesn't have jumbo props for the rabbits – allowing the white, stylized and simple art to speak for itself – but she does allow interaction. “Wherever I go people project their own decorations on them. In Paris, at a Russian clown’s house, being clowns they did amazing things with them, offering them giant vegetables,” says Parer. “In Calgary they lit them up with lights, dance party lights inside them. I’m open to people being inspired by them and doing creative things as well.”
Houston, the challenge is set before us. When the rabbits come to town, how will we react?
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 9-14, 1600 Smith, artsbrookfield.com/event/intrude. Free.