Zebrafish Oannes

The zebrafish is one of The Incredible Shrinking Man’s most beloved spirit animals. Being a model organism for endocrinological and genetic research positions it between fact and fiction, the known and the unknown, the present and the future, thus allowing us to follow it to realms of reality yet undiscovered. The series of zebrafish portraits shows how they, as an extension of the human body, have become a space of desire, a mirror of what we want. Yet at the same time they are part of the great unknown, the riddle of life, the majesty of the wild. Lately the zebrafish has become somewhat of an iconic figure in our shamanistic dance routine, the Abun’dance. The dance represents the desire to break free from our dominant paradigm of continuous growth while illustrating and enacting the alternative perspective of shrinking. The fish on our feet perhaps symbolise the above mentioned desire as well as the notion of temperance, sometimes represented in western iconography by fish drawn or painted on feet. Sometimes we wear a lab coat painted (rather amateurish) with fish scales reminiscent of Oannes, the Babylonian fish/man hybrid that taught man the use of letters, sciences, agriculture, law, architecture, and arts of all kinds. And in our mind (not out loud because it is not very good) we hum the Shaman’s Fish Song.

None of this makes direct sense from the perspective of the actual scientific or societal desire to inspire a smaller human species but perhaps when it comes to radical change, making sense is not the best place to start. The Zebrafish Oannes may disrupt comfortable understandings of how we will attain the knowledge to reach abundance for all forms of life by the introduction of ’something’ we cannot yet put into words.

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