Magazine article Artforum International

Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen: Schering Stiftung

Magazine article Artforum International

Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen: Schering Stiftung

Article excerpt

A few months before I left New York, someone gave me a goldfish he had won at a funfair, thinking that having a pet would help me feel more rooted in the Big Apple. I left my tiny Brooklyn apartment shortly after, but not without learning that goldfish, too, can suffer from loneliness and stress and are ill-suited to living in small bowls. I was reminded of this episode at the opening of "assemble I standard I minimal" by London-based duo Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, where the first thing viewers encountered were three solitary goldfish in small, barren aquariums in a work titled Sterile, 2014. They had been bred, the press release informed us, by Professor Etsuro Yamaha in Hokkaido, Japan; nearby was Sensei Ichi-go, 2014, an ostensibly "dormant" machine for producing sterile goldfish from previously extracted eggs and sperm, with a clinically white conveyor belt leading from the apparatus to an empty glass tank. The accompanying text claimed the fish on view were "not conceived as animals but made as objects." This premise was effectively staged, but ultimately seemed specious: Why should the dignity of life inhere in the act of biological rather than technological reproduction? And what underlies this opposition between art and "natural" life? Anyway, it was clear enough that these goldfish weren't having the time of their lives. It seemed they were there mainly to make us feel queasy.

I was not surprised, then, to hear that a day after this show's opening, a vet from the Berlin city government inspected the exhibit and declared that the solitary goldfish needed gravel, a hiding place, and company--which they were promptly granted. Still, on my second visit a few weeks later, the pairs of goldfish in each tank didn't look joyous, exactly, and I secretly wondered if any of the tank's original inhabitants had gone to the next world and been replaced from the "edition" of forty-five Professor Yamaha had made. …

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