blocks_image

When Fish Sing


Number 102, Rue de Laeken is an exotic fish and pet supply store. It lies within a poor, largely Congolese neighbourhood adjacent to Brussels’ city centre. The facade of the pet shop is covered by thick, cracked paint. Not just peeling, you feel like by throwing a stone you could start an avalanche. A large plastic orange fish hangs by a fin from the third floor balcony: its one-eye stares down the street.
In the left-hand window, food bowls and retractable leads rest upon Astroturf, sheltered under a sparse plastic jungle and fading photographs of happy pets. The right-hand window presents a rainbow of different coloured chewy-bones. A variety of toys wait like beady-eyed votive figures for a slobbery, doggy-fate. In the corner, a red plastic birdcage keeps captive two yellowing plastic leaves.
Next-door is a contemporary art gallery. Once an empty shop, it has now been refurbished in a sophisticated monochrome of glass, chrome and vinyl letters. In the window a thin (also monochrome) man on a ladder adjusts a spotlight, then sweeps his fringe from his forehead.
The exhibition opens that evening. Tiny, exotic fish with rippling dorsal fins and long noses have been imported directly from Africa to be artfully arranged inside immaculate glass tanks. Each tank has its own probes, and the electrical charges that these remarkable fish produce are being transmitted to loud speakers as a final sound check. Later, these little fish (the source of the synthetic, clicking noises being magnified by powerful speakers) will unwittingly star in a live electronic concert - aided by a mixing desk, sampler and the latest in apple-power-book computer technology.
Next-door in the pet-shop the fish swim restlessly, disturbed by the vibrations and a chunk of weathered paint drops to the ground.