Much as it hurts a columnist to spoil a lovely story with the truth, the enormous (12 metres long, 4 metres high, 3 metres deep) and very yellow sculpture just erected on Drakeford Drive in Tuggeranong isn't a representation of gambolling goldfish. In fact (and in this case the truth is almost as good as the colourful goldfish rumour posted on an influential city blog) it is a representation of one giant, fluttering bogong moth.
The custard-yellow steel artwork you're all going to have to form an opinion about if you commute to and from rather artwork-impoverished Tuggeranong is Alex Knox's Moth Ascending The Capital. It was officially set free to flutter yesterday.
The artwork is meant to mark a kind of gateway to Tuggeranong and some of the bulky three-dimensionality of its design is meant to help us enjoy it as we see it, fleetingly, from our dashing cars. We can go right up to Leonardo's Mona Lisa or to Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase where they hang in their galleries, but most of us will only ever get a glimpse of Moth Ascending The Capital as we rocket past it.
And Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase wasn't just mentioned to give this column a veneer of aestheticism. Heaven forbid. No, it's mentioned because, the Melbourne-based Knox reveals, it was the inspiration for his Moth Ascending The Capital.
"Moth Ascending the Capital deals with the epic and almost mystical journey of the bogong moth as it flies from its wilderness birthplace, through dark rural night, to converge en masse on the false moon of our brightly lit Parliament House.
"To the Walgalu and Ngunnawal and other Aboriginal groups that once lived and hunted on the land where Canberra now stands, the bogong moth migration and seasonal infestations represented a time of plenty. The moths were rich in fat and protein . . . once collected the moths were roasted and eaten whole. During the summer months when the moths were plentiful, great feasts . . . took place.
"Now the bright lights of Canberra and other towns and cities lure the hapless moths off their instinctual migratory paths with an attraction that is magnetic yet still not fully understood."
"My design for Moth Ascending is inspired by Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase, a painting of superimposed painted images similar to stroboscopic motion photography. The artwork was derived from a piece of video footage of a moth simultaneously filmed from the side and above. I have taken a number of stills from this footage that show the successive movement of the creature's wings. These wing images were traced and model a typically erratic flight path of a moth as this work is to be viewed predominantly from a moving vehicle."
The site on Drakeford Drive was chosen because of its connection to the recently opened Namadgi School named after Namadgi National Park. Before the moths were deceived by Canberra's bright lights they used to flock to Namadgi.