DUCK (1997)
A polyvalent* art project.
*A term from linguistics or chemistry describing a capacity to link or bond with many other entities.

This project entailed breeding and training ducks, and exhibiting them at agricultural shows, art events and other sanctioned waterfowl venues. The ducks were kept at a farm at Mangrove Mountain N.S.W. where they were educated in aesthetics, cultural theory and deportment.

The ducks were part of a breeding program having both conservation and aesthetic purposes; the preservation of an endangered domestic waterfowl breed (Cayuga), and the design and breeding of an ‘art’ duck.

This project brought the disciplines of genetics, aesthetics, and choreography together in the domain of the domestic hobby.

The implicit contention that “ducks are beautiful” allowed an emergence of various understandings of aesthetics. The living duck acted as a decoy to facilitate a targeting of feral aesthetics in situ.
The project was a domain in which open-ended social exchange and informal discussion were integral, and an arena in which different constituencies of interest with overlapping objectives and perspectives could interact.
It assisted the preservation of genetic diversity in domestic bird breeds, both directly and through education, and was a forum to discuss alterative farming methods.

Encounters with Ducks
• Artspace, Sydney. Live ducks displayed as part of Eco-Poetics symposium.

• Royal Agricultural Society Easter Show, Sydney. (Grand Champion Cayuga)
• New South Wales Waterfowl Society (First Prize)
• Mangrove Mountain Country Fair. Children’s art (duck theme) from local elementary schools, ducks and ducklings exhibited in marquee sponsored by Synapse.
• Central Coast Poultry Club Show.

• Synapse Cayuga Drake photograph in Australian Poultry Standards (first edition).

Genetics (Post-script)
The project ended with the outbreak of Newcastle Disease at intensive poultry farms in the district and the “art” ducks being killed by offices from the Department of Agriculture, along with millions of other domestic birds.

This was an attempt to contain the disease and maintain Australia’s trading status as an agricultural zone in which the disease was exotic not endemic, and to save the industry the cost of immunising all their birds.

Antibody tests on the destroyed birds proved otherwise, ie the disease was endemic. Many of the non-industry farmed birds had antibodies to Newcastle Disease, yet had showed few if any symptoms, while factory-farmed birds (genetically designed for fast growth and excessively medicated) had died in large numbers.