Mitzel’s project Goldfish – In A Bag resonates with the artist’s larger body of work, which explores the complex and troubled relationship between humans and the animal companions that they breed and domesticate. With these goldfish he seeks to establish—and to some degree—repair a relationship that he shares with creatures over the span of their (un)natural lives. Like Gellman’s paint brush project, Goldfish also started during the pandemic, a period of human “self-captivity” that, for many, stimulated reflection and reckoning as to how we relate to non-human worlds and beings. At a time when humans were wrapping their own lives in plastic to protect themselves from threats of contagion, Mitzel also ponders the larger ecological question of artificial and containing environments that have come to characterize the lives of goldfish and humans alike as we move through the world in bubbles both transparent and bounded. — AY
Artist Reflection —
In 2020, now in my early 30’s, I look back in horror at my relationship with goldfish. How could I, someone who claims to love animals and life, be so complacent to a system of forced captivity, forced breeding, mass culling, and the standardization of subpar living conditions? The week before Illinois shut down for COVID, I purchased five fancy goldfish from three different Chicago area pet stores. I intend to take care of and make work with these fish for their entire natural lives (10-15 years). Hopefully, I’ll find meaningful ways to work through my past, deeply problematic relationships to their species as a whole, and help create a New Eco-Mythology surrounding goldfish.
We know the goldfish started as a carp in a bowl in China. The first golden color mutation was recorded in 265 AD. What does it mean to be a goldfish now existing thousands of years later? What will it mean to be a goldfish thousands of years from now?
Goldfish are the most popular “pet” fish in the world.
Plastic is the most produced material on Earth.
Every goldfish that ends up in a pet store is shipped from a breeding facility in a plastic bag.
Every goldfish that goes home from a pet store is placed in a plastic bag.
If you buy a plastic toy goldfish, it is shipped and packaged in a plastic bag.
If you buy a dead goldfish sealed in resin, that too is shipped in a plastic bag.
Can a goldfish exist outside plastic influence?
About Travis Mitzel
Travis Mitzel is an artist focused on confronting climate catastrophe, dealing with eco-anxiety, and practicing new eco-mythology. He is interested in exploring an individual’s role in a new epoch marked by mass extinction, climate disaster, and toxic waste. To do so Mitzel lives with non-human collaborators to further his research and artistic practice. His work exists to deal with overwhelming eco-anxiety and to illuminate interesting non human experiences or histories. The artwork looks for simple ways to move forward, make kin, better the now and maybe (not looking great) the future too. Mitzel has worked as a commercial photographer, an animal caretaker, and received his MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.