If It Floats Like a Duck

A giant duck-shaped balloon will hover over T.A. City Hall next month as part of the city's centennial. Late cartoonist Dudu Geva, who dreamed up the idea, wouldn't have believed it if he saw it himself.

The unlikely is about to happen. The idea that artist and cartoonist Dudu Geva suggested three and a half years ago, which was rejected at the time, is about to be realized. In April as part of Tel Aviv's 100th birthday celebrations, a giant yellow duck will be placed on the roof of Tel Aviv City Hall and will smile benignly at passersby for a month.

"It is like a military operation. At least 10 artists are working around the clock and on a voluntary basis, as well as some of the municipal officials and all sorts of other people and friends who have joined in the project," says artist Yuval Caspi who has been coordinating the work on the project with Geva's two children, Tami and Aharon.

For practical reasons, the three decided to turn the figure of the duck that had starred in Geva's dreams into a giant 10-meter-long cloth balloon.

The organizers want to coordinate the balloon's grand entrance with an artistic event open to the public, which will take place in Rabin Square and will feature live rock performances.

Since the cost of producing the giant balloon is some NIS 50,000, the organizers and their friends started fund-raising a few months ago.

Two parties, one hosted by the artist Ido Shemi and the other by the Tel Aviv Dada Club, helped raise funds. Geva's friends and those who had appreciated his work also contributed; a special bank account was opened for the event.

Two groups contributed NIS 10,000 each - the municipal group in charge of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the city and the Caricatures and Comics Museum in Holon. The museum will welcome the duck as a permanent fixture on its roof after its month on City Hall.

'The city is lost'

The idea to put the giant duck on the municipality's roof was first brought up by Geva in 2003 as part of an initiative of Tel Aviv artists who proposed that the city declare itself an autonomous state. In an article that appeared in the local paper Ha'Ir, he proposed to freshen up the image of the city: to place giant statues of ducks and other animals on public buildings; to hang amusing banners in the streets; to decorate the trees with colored paper decorations and to play music in the squares. "My initiative stems from the fact that the city is lost," Geva was quoted as saying.

"Tel Aviv is so ugly that entire streets should be wiped out and started over from the beginning. It is impossible to do that and it also costs a fortune so at least it's possible to decorate and make the streets more merry. City Hall is a lost cause. If a giant duck is placed on its roof, everything will be turned upside down. The idea is to bring joy to people's hearts and to make art a part of daily life."

Four months before Geva's death, his daughter Tami says, he met Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and outlined his plan to place the duck on the roof.

"It was in the framework of turning Tel Aviv into a duck city," she says, and explains that her father dreamed of setting up an independent artistic and social movement that would disseminate art to the masses.

"Even though in the municipality they like to say that they approved his request, it was not really like that. The truth is that Huldai was rather skeptical."

The plan to turn Tel Aviv into a "duck city" seemed funny but had a serious objective, she says. "My father really meant it. He spoke about using public spaces for fun and art and said that any place that was fun for children was fun for everyone. He never at any stage thought that they would take him seriously, but he wanted to spread the 'duck movement' as an artistic and social movement."

Opera from garbage trucks

"It was just another silly idea of Dad's, which he raised simply so they would tell him 'no'," jokes his son Aharon. "We have files full of these kinds of ideas of his - such as putting a giant snake on the roofs of houses on Rothschild Boulevard, or to have opera singers sit in garbage trucks and have them sing."

After his father's death in February 2005, Aharon sent a request to the Tel Aviv municipality to have the duck placed on City Hall. "A week later they telephoned me and said that the idea had been approved," he says.

The contacts with the various municipal officials continued over the course of three years until everything was worked out.

In the end, the parties decided to put the giant duck on the roof of City Hall exactly 100 years after the historic lottery allotting plots along the Tel Aviv beachfront, on April 11.

"We don't want the event to feel like a memorial," Tami Geva says. "We want my father's idea of putting art in open public spaces to continue to exist, with humor, in the spirit of the duck."