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).