The Fish Fountain for Stavoren Mark Dion

Stavoren
‘Stavoren once had fishing written all over it. The catching and selling of fish is engraved in its cultural memory and identity, even though its economic and social reality today is quite different. That’s why I thought of fish as I explored the town, partly fed by my own background, the harbour city of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Like Stavoren, this city is also trying to regain its once so dominant economic position.
New cultural heritage
in eleven Dutch cities
New cultural heritage
in eleven Dutch cities

In addition, the character of both towns is formed around remarkable myths: the Lady of Stavoren for one and Moby-Dick for the other. These traditions fill the populations with pride, but they can also be a burden as they tend to anchor the towns in the past. In my exploration of art history I found a pen-and-ink drawing dating from the time when Stavoren was a flourishing seaport, and it struck me as perfect for the town: “Big Fish Eat Little Fish” by Peter Bruegel the Elder from 1556. The strange beauty and power of this work served as an inspiration for my “Fish Fountain for Stavoren”. The enormous head of the massive fish rises up from the basin, and its open mouth swallows up curious visitors in order to confront them on the inside with Stavoren’s stories. The fountain encourages interaction, and it all has to do with the playful, the grotesque and the carnivalesque. But it also hints at something more serious: the sense of having lost a true miracle that was once part of the sea-going life.’

Mark Dion (United States, 1961) lives in New York City. For his work, Dion delves deeply into the history of a subject or location and, like an archaeologist, retrieves all sorts of hidden things that he exhibits in unusual ways in his installations. As a result, he might dedicate an appropriately designed ‘knowledge centre’ to the seagull, which, in his words, is ‘one of the most hated of birds but also one of the most intelligent.’ Dion typically packages his engagement with the world and his passion for history and science in a way that is humorous without stripping it of its sharp edges. He has many international projects and exhibitions to his name, and major museums such as the MoMa in New York and the Tate Gallery in London include his work in their collection. He has also been the recipient of countless awards.

Fountains