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Monday, December 30, 2013

Kingyo Kingdom by Revital Cohen & Van Balen

Kingyo Kingdom by Cohen Van Balen

Revital Cohen - who together with her partner Tuur Van Balen forms the design practice Cohen Van Balen - is describing her studio's latest work. The project isKingyo Kingdom, a video exploration of the practice of selective goldfish breeding in Japan, a film that is now on show at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton as part of the art exhibition Transformism.
The project - named after "kingyo", the Japanese word for goldfish - is focused on Ranchu, a form of goldfish bred in Japan. The fish is bulbous, with no dorsal fin, and a rounded protuberant head. Originally bred from carp, the fish are mated selectively to produce offspring that conform to the ideal of Ranchu.
The practice is similar to the breeding of pedigree dogs and, like the dog industry, breeders show the animals at competitions to try and win "best in show" awards. The purpose of Kingyo Kingdom is to acknowledge these fish as designed consumer objects, biologically created to adhere to strict design constraints.

Ranchu viewed from above

As a studio, Cohen Van Balen is interested in the examination of animals as design projects. Van Balen's previous project Pigeon D'Or (2011) saw him add bacteria to pigeon feed to make the birds' guano soapy enough to clean streets, while Cohen'sLife Support (2008) reconfigured animals into life-prolonging technologies such as respirators. Now, with Kingyo Kingdom, the studio turns its eye towards an older form of biological design.
"Goldfish are completely functionless," says Cohen. "They’re purely aesthetic and a decorative object, which is interesting for us because people cultivate them and treat them as objects for viewing. We wanted to go and follow this story of the people who breed them and sell them. We wanted to find breeders and get them to talk in designer language: why is your fish orange rather than red or white; why is the head big; why is the tail like that? How is the breeder a designer and what are the design constraints of the animal."
While in Tokyo, Cohen and Van Balen visited Ranchu competitions, where the fish are displayed for scoring in opaque ceramic bowls. Because the bowls force the fish to be viewed from above, it is the fish's aerial profile that is of import to the judging. "The breeders have taken an animal and flattened it to just an aerial view when it swims," says Cohen. "It’s an animal completely created and designed for its aesthetic properties. This is not a fish; it's a living commodity."

Ranchu's form has been carefully cultivated through selective breeding

Despite having originated from carp, breeders strive to ensure that Ranchu do not look like carp. Careful breeding has led to outlandish varieties within Ranchu such as the Shishi-Gashira and the Tatsu-Gashira: animals bred to resemble a mythical lion and a dragon respectively. The breeding of the fish is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, but is also highly-coordinated and technical process.
To mark the release of Kingyo Kingdom, Cohen and Van Balen have shared with Disegno a specially edited version of the film. The movie explores their findings in Japan - the culture of showing Ranchu; the breeding farms where the fish are created; and the industrial packaging of the fish for sale - and presents the development of Ranchu as a strand of design. The creation of Ranchu is, to Cohen and Van Balen's eyes, as much a part of product design as the creation of a new chair or lamp.
"It's a part of design that is ignored and which the industry doesn’t admit," says Cohen. "But everything about the manipulation of nature is extremely relevant for where design will go in the coming years. Biology is becoming a material that we manipulate. But before trying to invent crazy biotechnological manipulations, it's good to see what there already is and what there always has been.
"Both Tuur and I are product designers and we are interested in biology as technology and what that might bring. What is a bio-product? People talk about bio-products as if they're the future, but they’re already everywhere. The animals around us have been designed. Ranchu is just a very extreme case."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sox gene: curving a ranchu's back

A pair of Sox: distinct and overlapping functions of zebrafish sox9 co-orthologs in craniofacial and pectoral fin development

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My little kingfisher

He'll be 3 on 1/11/14. Catching yearling isreali yellows bare handed and with a net. Caught them all. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A new sink for where to be determined

Bought this like new Delta 1 ABS convertible darkroom sink last weekend. Not sure where it will end up, but can't what to figure that out. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

An early winter blast

Last Friday it snowed all day, it never snows all day in the willamette valley. It was cold and dry snow that just fell off the bamboo. It hasn't been above freezing in 4 days and it's been as low as the single digits, the snow is still powder. So cold and unusual, tanks that have never had surface ice are 4 inches thick with ice. The greenhouse system has an 800 watt heater which is keeping the system water in the low 40's. The inside of the plastic with snow on it was in the high 30's and only 20 on the outside.