Fish Tank

Curated by Fintan Boyle and Matt Freedman for Romanov Grave.

LIU, Brooklyn, Humanities Gallery, 2016.

From the catalogue essay:

…Owning and displaying fish has a long pedigree then. It is a particular subset of the culture of display. Roman elites showed off their barbells to their guests. A restricted, narrow audience one imagines. In the same historical frame the old fisher-of-men guy, Jesus, steals into the scene as a quiet spectacle daubed on walls. A graffito not to signal aquarium, but to mark a safe place for persecuted Christians to meet. Such graffito fade into history and Christianity becomes the party line while it and aquaria, as a subset of carnival, evolve as a parallel cultures of spectacle. Aquaria take off as bigger public deal around 1850. The usual suspects are there, great expositions, science, imperial land (and sea) grabbing, and then there is the entrepreneurial bread and circuses for the domestic populace. Chang and Eng were famously, and probably cruelly the headliners, but Barnum’s American Museum at Broadway and Ann also housed an aquarium. The whole caboodle burned to the ground in1865 broiling the lions and bears and boiling the Beluga Whales in their homes unless as legend has it a heroic fireman named Johnny Denham broke open their glass cases with an axe in a futile attempt to douse the flames, thereby getting a fifty year head start on one of the all-time great movie tropes-the exploding fish tank. (In this respect check out Nancy Davidson’s video in Fish Tank)…



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