AM’s ‘absurd and wonderful’ Progress Shark
Progress Shark has become Sydney WorldPride festival’s unofficial mascot and queer icon. Photograph: Abram Powell.
Samantha Lock, Sydney’s ‘absurd and wonderful’ Progress Shark becomes WorldPride icon, The Guardian, 17 February 2023
Australian Museum’s installation is 10 metres long, sports a rainbow Lycra swimsuit and has captured the hearts of many.
When an event thrusts a city into the global spotlight, designing a mascot is a highly deliberated undertaking. But in Sydney, where the month-long WorldPride celebrations have just commenced, it has happened entirely by accident.
And the result is a giant great white shark wrapped in rainbow Lycra.
In Australia’s biggest city, the month-long WorldPride festival has begun and a 10-metre long statue called Progress Shark, has become its unofficial totem.
The Australian Museum exhibit – originally designed simply to welcome its hundreds of thousands of visitors – has become a viral sensation and accidental icon of WorldPride.
“As a queer person I have never connected to something so deeply as I have to Progress Shark,” said Laura Connell, 29, a Sydney-based artist. “It’s absurd and wonderful. It’s everything we never knew we needed.”
The prop, suspended five metres in the air, has gained international fame online, sparked dozens of memes and even prompted an Instagram fan account.
Hundreds have lined up to take a photo next to the larger-than-life sea creature.
“Progress Shark needs to be made a national landmark,” one fan said. “I would die for Progress Shark,” said another.
The museum tweeted earlier that it was “blown away” by all the support. “Progress Shark has captured the hearts of so many already,” it said. “He’s a male, he’s bigger than a great white shark normally gets but he’s scientifically and anatomically correct.”
Artist George Buchanan brought the creation to life by sewing together the shark-sized Lycra leotard in her garage in south Sydney. “I had to measure the shark first,” she says. “It’s not symmetrical so it was difficult to get it right.”
The final result was a metres-long rainbow suit sewn together with 25lb fishing line.
“It’s very Aussie humour. It’s so silly. It’s just absurd,” she said. “What is seen as a menacing creature is now bringing so much joy and love.”
Kate Wickett, the festival’s CEO, said Progress Shark was just one of the 45 “rainbow moments” spread across Sydney as part of Rainbow City, one to celebrate each year of Mardi Gras. “It’s the unofficial mascot Sydney WorldPride never knew it needed,” she said.
Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore, is also in support of the shark. “It’s your time to shine Progress Shark”, she said while tagging the fan account set up in dedication to the shark.
Art Simone, Australian drag performer and former contestant in RuPaul’s Drag Race, joined the online frenzy, writing: “Progress Shark is where it’s at!”
WorldPride started in Sydney on Friday and will run to 5 March. It will also coincide with the city’s 45th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras where more than 500,000 people are expected to attend.