Bonsai Fish: Bred to Be Square

February 19, 2013 | Marina Galperina

Artist Revital Cohen was once very interested in the laboratory rats genetically designed to be depressed. His latest documentary project Kingyo Kingdom explores the centuries-old Japanese culture of breeding exotic, domestic Ranchu goldfish to look wrong from above. And by wrong, I mean like beauuuutiful dragons in kimonos. And if they don’t look that way, they’re thrown out. To die. That’s not depressing, right?

They have no dorsal fins, but they’re very expensive and nifty. They’re not pets. They’re ornaments. They are, essentially, living bling.

The kind of artificial selection/forced evolution that Carl Sagan was so hard for in Cosmos. You know, the Heike crabs? When ancient Japanese fishermen would catch crabs with Samurai-face-like shell ridges, they’d chuck them back into the water, securing their survival and the future of their Samurai-face-like shell genes. Only that’s a much cheerier story than If You Don’t Look Like a Bright Scaly Box, You Die.

Now on view at the Transformism exhibition in Southampton, England. More at We Make Money, Not Art.