One self funded artist on a shoestring budget is reaching out globally and getting significant feedback.
In August of 2020 when I started making a six meter long skeleton of a Sea Bass I had no idea that almost four years later its legacy would still be swimming through the public consciousness.
More than any other installation to date, the disappearing fish has effected me profoundly with its message of despair for all species Piscine and Crustacean. Today the oceans and rivers are still being systematically poisoned by humans. Fish like the Bluefin Tuna are still being hunted with the use of satellites and helicopters, while other fish stocks are still being rapidly depleted by factory ships going ever deeper with their nets. Seabeds are still being destroyed by dredging and the E.U. will continue to permit this abuse until 2030.
The Disappearing Fish installation was made by using wire to replicate a fishing net and hold together 333 small plywood fish in the shape of a six meter long fish skeleton. The small fish had been cut from previous installations, sanded smooth and painted with waterproof lacquer. The giant fish skeleton was hauled in across Swanage bay in Dorset, UK and pulled up on the beach by fellow villagers who had helped in its make. This small performance was an enactment of purse seine fishing, an ancient method of community fishing practiced in countries from Brazil to Mozambique and beyond. Unfortunately these countries waters have been so overfished by international fishing boats that there’s little or nothing in their nets these days when pulled up on to the beach.
But the installation did not end there. It was raised up on to the facade of the local theatre, The Mowlem, where it remained for ten days before being taken down and disassembled. All 333 fish, which had been cut from previous installations, were individually set aside ready for their next adventure. Liberty came within a week for some of the small fish; with a clutch of unnumbered ones being released from Kimmeridge bay further down the coast.
Since then each fish has been lightly sanded, re- lacquered, tagged and numbered. Fish have been released all over the world by friends and contacts willing to squeeze two or three into their baggage as they head off on holiday or business trips.
Early in 2021 Fish 14 and 15, released in Antiqua, washed up three months later on the shores of St Kitts within a week of each other. Fish 26 released soon after from Siesta Key, Florida was found two weeks later on Longboat Key by a delighted little girl.
Fish have been released by Kayakers in Alaska, Yachts people in Praslin Island, Seychelles and cyclists in France. Fish have been found by children, grandparents, dogs, fishermen, river beach comers, shore walkers and even horse riders in Morocco. Many more lye languid, still waiting to be found.
In London fish released from Twickenham Bridge have beached at Barnes, Putney embankment and one at Oxo tower three weeks later.
Later fish released in to the Thames have been found on river beaches from St. Marys Battersea to London Bridge. One was pulled out of the water last week at West Indies Quay.
Further afield Fish 107 was released on the Zambezi by game wardens in March of 2023. As yet unfound, perhaps a crocodile further down river has indigestion?
Meanwhile a fish released from a boat crossing to Catembe in Mozambique on the 7th June 2022 was found weeks later further up the coast in the Bazzaruto Archipelago,
Fish 81, released from the Adriatic’s Tremiti Islands, on the 22nd September 2023 was washed up weeks later miles further down the Italian coast at Mola de Bari Italy on 12th November.
More recently I received the following message
“Hi Eilidh I Found your disappearing fish on the Coast of Southern Portugal at Praia d Raposa in June 1st 2023 I was on foot from Spain from Santiago de Compostela. Your fish was a sign for me. I had Eaten too little on my walk and had a disappearing body. With Kind regards M”
Having been released from the steps of Praça Comerçio, Lisbon on the 16th of May this fish had swum down the Tejo Estuary, out to the Atlantic and traveled 63 nautical miles south down the coast to Praia da Reposo. The notification arrived with the following Photographs. The fish was left on a beach bench near where it had been found.
Another fish, also released in Lisbon at Paço Dos Arcos on 14th of May was found more than a month later at Comporta by an American who took it back to the U.S. and released it again at Cape Cod.
Of the 135 fish released 34 have been found, some being re-released again. Some may have been found by people unable to contact me.
Those that find fish and contact me are told the brief story of that fishes journey and of The Disappearing Fish Art installation they had been part of. Ultimately the message of needing to be more conscious of the fish we eat and how they are caught is spreading across the worlds seas and oceans, albeit incrementally.
The remaining fish will continue to be released around the world carrying the message of overfishing and pollution and how we can each do what we can to help our marine species.
It’s heartening to know that while millions are often spent on marketing campaigns such a simple low budget one can reach across the world, giving people delight when they find a fish. The message is strong, often arousing enthusiastic contact; people are delighted to get a reply and be given the history of the fish and its previous life as an art installation.