Text by CLOT Magazine
A fourth edition in the series The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish is taking place this weekend between 5-6 December 2020. This project is an ongoing research and a festival on consciousness and intelligence across life forms and part of General Ecology, the Serpentine’s long-running project addressing climate change, the environment, extinction and posthumanism. General Ecology explores these topics in cross-disciplinary exchanges between artists, scientists, musicians and theorists.
The title of the festival series uses as a conceptual starting point the way in which mating male pufferfish draw ornate circles in the sand of the seabed: maybe an image for us humans, looking from above, but also a movement, almost a dance, for this little fish. From that thought extends a reflection on communication, creativity and intelligence across species, towards a deep ecological understanding of everyday life.
The 4th edition, titled The Understory of the Understory marks the first time that the Fish series is held online at a specially created site themind.fish, designed by artist Giles Round. The programme will dive down for two days exploring the teeming, entangled life of ground, land, soil and Earth. With a team of artists, anthropologists, foragers, and scientists to share the lessons and tell the stories of the teeming density present in the substance under our feet that will address questions such as did you know that a mere handful of soil holds 50km of fungal mycelium and 100 billion bacteria?
The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish series is curated by Lucia Pietroiusti (Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine) and writer Filipa Ramos, with Holly Shuttleworth (Producer) and Kostas Stasinopoulos (Assistant Curator, Live Programmes). Previous editions of The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish have addressed animal, human and artificial consciousness, language, and interspecies communication (#1, London Zoo, May 2018), interior multitude, swarming organisms, symbiosis and entanglement (#2, Ambika P3, University of Westminster, December 2018) and plant sentience, intelligence, communication with the vegetal world and forms of eroticism, mysticism and healing (#3, EartH Hackney and French Institute, April/May 2019).
Curators Lucia Pietroiusti and Filipa Ramos: share: The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish dedicates itself to unpicking those assumptions we make about the centrality and exceptionalism of humanity. What gives us the sense that a forest cannot love or think or sing, if not for the fact that we have obstinately defined love, thought and song in our own image? With The Understory of the Understory, we look at the ground and find life at its deepest forms, connected across the animal, vegetal and mineral realms. We encounter biological continuity and co-operation, mycelium distributions, as well as a layered history of settler colonialism, land rights and land use. Over the two days, we speculate, imagine and discuss our complex and profound relationship with the Earth, soil, land and ground.
The Understory of the Understory runs free online from 5-6 Dec 2020.