The Nation: Suffering Catfish

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Suffering Catfish Americans may feel sentimental about animals, but compared to the mother country, the U.S. is downright callous. Last week London's Hay ward Gallery opened an exhibition of eleven California artists' work—sculptures, constructions, video tapes. There were also six 20-ft.-long water tanks that La Jolla Artist Newton Harrison called Portable Fish Farm.

Other avant-garde artists have used human models and animals in their assemblages. Harrison filled his tanks with 135 catfish, 96 oysters, eleven lobsters, two crayfish and innumerable tiny brine shrimp to demonstrate, he said, how man might live in a polluted environment by harvesting fish. On opening night, 35 of the catfish were scheduled to be electrocuted, and served up to specially invited guests along with hush puppies and salad. "My piece is about the cycle of life," Harrison explained.

Immediately, Britain's animal partisans rose in outrage, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals protested the "ritual slaughter." Comedian Spike Milligan argued, in all seriousness, for laws to protect defenseless fish. Finally the Arts Council of Great Britain and the R.S.P.C.A. worked out a compromise: the feast would go on, but the fish would not be killed in public. Americans who missed the fish show could catch another Harrison exhibit this week in La Jolla. Called La Jolla Promenade, it displays snails being nibbled by white ducks. Whatever the ducks leave will be served up to art lovers as escargots.