Portable Fish Farm: Survival Piece # 3, 1971

installation detail:  Fish Farm
installation detail: Fish Farm
Installation detail: Catfish Farm
Installation detail: Catfish Farm
Electrocution Chamber
Electrocution Chamber

Portable Fish Farm: Survival Piece #3:- #3:- 1971 -Installation with performances: ‘Harvesting and Feasting’. Commissioned by the Hayward Gallery, London, for the exhibition “11 Los Angeles Artists”. Six rubber lined tanks, each 8 feet by 20 feet by 3 feet contained catfish, brine shrimp and lobsters. Installation moved to Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels using carp, rudd, tench and breem, also with harvesting and feasting. The work took up the issue of backyard farming in relationship to social rituals and farming behaviors. Exhibition Catalog: 11 Los Angeles Artists.

It happened that the Portable Fish Farm in London created, what was for us, a startling uproar. The American SPCA required that catfish be electrocuted by the professional fish farmers as the only humane way to kill catfish, who lived out of water, suffering as much as 4 hours. The farmers had kindly taught me breeding, harvesting, skinning and filleting catfish in the catfish farms at Brawley. After the installation of the work at the Haywood, a drawing of the electrocution system was published. Objections spread across the land, newspaper articles, television and radio magnified these objections. Moreover, the RSPCA expressed great objection to the work. The comedian, Spike Milligan, threw a rock at the Museum. Finally, Parliament took a hand, sending Lord Goodman down to the museum who threatened to remove funds from the British Arts Council if so much as one catfish was electrocuted on British soil. During this uproar, the Scientists for Social Responsibility saw this behavior as censorship. Morris Wilkins, Nobel laureate, David Boem, the theoretical physicist and even C.P. Snow as well as many others came to the works defense. Meetings were held. Finally, the author, Antonia Fraser, stood up and explained that she had fishponds. She first harvested a fish and killed it. Moreover, her children skinned them. Finally, in our work, fish were harvested, the movements in harvesting, skinning and filleting were expressed rhythmically and a vast catfish and hush-puppy feast was presented to the British elite at the opening of the work.

Skinning and Filleting Table
Skinning and Filleting Table
Detail: Catish and Hushpuppy Feast
Detail: Catish and Hushpuppy Feast