Almost Human

March 16, 2021
Category: Blog Posts

Almost Human

Australian artist Amanda Parer has a “fantastic” cure for our COVID-19-induced doldrums. Her installation, Fantastic Planet, can bring people together while they remain apart.

Her six giant humanoid figures, all made from inflatable material, are rising throughout downtown. Some of these figures are as high as 14 metres. Together they make a wondrous display, and launch Downtown Spark, a month-long initiative supported by Western Economic Diversification, the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Arts Council, Explore Edmonton, the Edmonton Arts Council and the Downtown Business Association. Downtown Spark will create vibrancy downtown and make it an exciting place to be when people come out to support businesses. 

“I think having them in Edmonton, especially post-pandemic, is even more exciting because we’ve all been waiting for events such as these to bring us back together,” says Fantastic Planet artist Amanda Parer. “It is very human nature to want to be social in such settings. It’s nice to be involved in this.”

Currently there are two sculptures at Churchill Square in front of Edmonton City Hall and one peeking out from the TIX on the Square building. Abbey Glen Park (Jasper Avenue and 102 Street) is home to another figure called Comfort. The other three locations will be announced on social media (#DTSpark) when they go up later this week. The inflatables are on display daily noon to 10 pm. 

The Fantastic Planet figures are based on the Czech-French animated movie named, well, Fantastic Planet. That film had giants who saw humans as pests. Parer’s work is not nearly as threatening. The giants are here simply to watch over us.

Fantastic Planet by Amanda Parer at Edmonton City Hall, Edmonton, Canada

Her figures were originally commissioned to appear at four separate festivals in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Montreal and Australia. Their popularity spread, and they’ve toured the world. Because they’re inflatables, they can be shipped rather easily, despite their size. “It’s poignant because they’re jumping around and exploring us and all parts of the world,” she says.

A few months back, Bob Rasko of the Edmonton Arts Council connected with Parer, with the idea of bringing the installation to Edmonton. 

“There’s lots of keenness to create events for the public to start enjoying themselves,” says Parer.

But, because the giants can be enjoyed from afar, they shouldn’t bring in close crowds. “The reason a lot of my pieces suit this particular time is that a lot of them will be installed on rooftops or slightly out of reach,” she says. “Therefore, they’re pandemic friendly. People are still enjoying installation artwork in our current climate.”

And, the Edmonton showing will be a family reunion, of sorts. Because the global demand for the show has been so great, the figures are often split up and sent to different cities. For example, when Toronto hosted Fantastic Planet, only two of the six “family” members were there. But, Edmonton will have six. Like the Brady kids, except giants.

Fantastic Planet by Amanda Parer at TIX on the Square, Edmonton, Canada

Other Downtown Spark activations happening in March and April include A Taste of Al Fresco on 104 Street March 27 and March 28, featuring extended restaurant and bar patios, ice sculptures and outdoor art installations. Over at Beaver Hill House Park, half a dozen giant illuminated rabbits (wâpos) by artists Jason Carter and Bridget Ryan invade the core March 25 to April 3. 

Where to find all the Fantastic Planet figures

  • Down There at City Hall Plaza: 24 hours
  • Peeping Corner at Sir Winston Churchill Square at TIX on the Square: noon-10:00pm
  • Poke at Sir Winston Churchill Square: noon-10:00pm
  • What’s That at Sir Winston Churchill Square: noon-10:00pm 
  • Comfort at Abbey Glen Park: noon-10:00pm
  • Over at MacEwan University 105 Street Building Rooftop (coming soon!) 

View the full schedule of Downtown Spark activities. 

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