At the bottom of the sea, a small puffer fish performs a labour of love, making elaborate sand circles, precise in their geometry, astounding in their aesthetics. Most animal specialists would think of these sand circles as a way of attracting a mate — but when we see the puffer fish in action, the action he is doing is also a dance; whereas for us watching it, we may see an artwork by a non-human species.
At the beginning of our research process, we wondered: how does this ‘shape’, this circle, this dance – how do they exist in the fish’s mind? How can we understand the movement that creates it as a kind of language and, most importantly, what is at stake when we reconsider language, communication and imagination in an interspecies landscape – looking across animal, human, vegetal, fungal and even artificial consciousness?
To launch its General Ecology project, and inspired by the 2019-2020 exhibition programme, Serpentine presents a long, durational symposium and research project in several parts, that will take place over several years. Titled The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish, the gatherings bring together a wide range of thinkers and practitioners from various disciplinary ambits across art, literature, environment, science and technology to explore the porous boundaries between human, non-human animal, vegetal, mineral, fungal and artificial consciousness and intelligence.
The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish is curated by Lucia Pietroiusti, Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine Galleries and writer and editor Filipa Ramos, with Holly Shuttleworth (Producer, Live Programmes) and Kostas Stasinopoulos (Assistant Curator, Live Programmes). Visual Identity by Giles Round.