Portable Fish Farm

Text from The Los Angeles Times (Oct 1, 1971):

LONDON — A major exhibition by 11 Los Angeles artists was postponed at Hayward Gallery here Thursday in a controversy involving titled officials, a show business star, the press, and a people who pride themselves on their love for animals.

An international flap over fish.

Artist Newton Harrison's "Portable Fish Farm" is an ecological work about growth and life cycles. Six large tanks contain lobster, crayfish, oysters, brine shrimp and catfish, dominating a large upper room of the government-owned gallery.

The catfish—200 of them—were shipped here live from El Centro, Calif. Harrison wanted to demonstrate man's ability to haul food great distances and harvest it in a new environment. Some catfish were to lay eggs; some were to mature during the showing. Others were to be cooked at an opening feast for 250 guests, to prove Harrison's idea that "all art is about survival."

Fish, to be cooked, must be killed. Harrison wanted people to see the process as part of his exhibition.

The killing part hooked the British press. Advance stories ignored almost everything except the "ritual execution" of catfish. That news triggered a reaction nearly incomprehensible outside animal-loving England.

Confused readers called papers to protest the "bludgeoning" of innocent cats. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was moved to "deplore" any public catfish killing.

British comedian Spike Milligan, famous for his work on "The Goon Show," carried his protest to the gallery itself. He threw a hammer through the front window Thursday morning.

More info: The Harrison Studio

Images from Google Arts & Culture:

     Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 29, 2023
     Category: Art | Food | 1970s

The thing that astonishes me is that they even allowed American catfish into the UK. These days, we take keeping our ecological systems safe from invasive species rather more seriously.
Posted by Richard Bos on 07/29/23 at 05:18 AM
If someone doesn't believe that "all art is about survival," he should be assigned the task of preparing the 80 teaspoons of grated onion.
They need to bring in a commercial chef to handle the obvious scale-up problem of the recipe. 60 cups water? 120 teaspoons baking powder?
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 07/29/23 at 11:28 AM
The RSPCA should have allowed the killing to take place in public. That could have created a whole new bunch of vegans. I think they were disappointed because their posters got refused at the site.
Posted by Yudith on 07/30/23 at 04:30 PM
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