Reshaping the Shape

August 20th, 2019

Public enemy or mascot of a global commons? Tracing the postnatural expansion of the Asian Carp.

Embodiment, Ecology, and Culture of a Postnatural Carp

There are some species that have been bolstered rather than hampered by the era of the Anthropocene. Through their work, Sarah Lewison and Andrew Yang trace the postnatural expansion of one such species, seeking modes of convivial coexistence as opposed to eradication.

The Asian Carp is a creature of the Anthropocene par excellence. Reviled for its invasiveness in the Mississippi and its tributaries, it has become part of the river’s second nature. By exploring the entangled cultural and natural history of the carp fundamental questions arise concerning how humans, non-humans, and landscapes reshape each other. Reshaping the Shape seeks to follow the stories and forms through which the Asian Carp might be reimagined and transformed from public enemy to a mascot of a global commons.

In following the fish’s journey through the economic and cultural landscape, viewers are invited to consider how humans have made the rivers more habitable for the carp. Through interviews and research, the project asks how we might adapt to living together with these fish. It suggests answers through a series of interventions such as informational placemats and billboards that tell the carp’s story, and convivial meals of artisanal fish cakes created with local chefs. Reshaping the Shape debuts on Earth Day with a festoon of carp banners at Carbondale’s “All Species Parade,” event where people dressed as animals march together through the streets. A public workshop for making Carp Kite windsocks will take place earlier in the month, as part of bringing the image of Hypophthalmichthys fish into the cultural life of Southern Illinois.