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"Fish Funeral"
Hillary Andujar

  • Project Space 613 Allen Street Austin, TX, 78702 United States (map)

A celebratory farewell to two bettas

Video Installation:

I’m obsessed with funerals. I find it tragic that the stereotypical Christian funeral, the kind with which I’m most familiar, tends to be the most solemn, redundant, and depressing of all death customs throughout the world. The variety of funeral rites practiced in other cultures has a strong allure for me. Some people wear white, some black, and some red. Some people hire mutes and mourners, or recite “Waheguru,” or cover the bodies in flowers, or put coins on their eyes, or burn them, or bury them, or freeze them, or leave them to be eaten by birds. There are state funerals, fireman funerals, New Orleans jazz funerals, endless types of funerals. Maybe if people of the Christian faith were more open to mixing and matching traditions, we could find more peace in the process rather than feeling like all the deceased are reduced to one sad, droning farewell.

In Fish Funeral, I do away with the traditional concepts of a Christian funeral for my two beloved betta fish, Jagger and Bowie, and send them on a journey full of grandeur, color, and laughter. Jagger was sweet— a serene, blue fish. He died, possibly of unnatural causes, and remained in my freezer for a year so he could be put to rest with Bowie. Bowie was a jerk— a fiery orange fish. He would always puff his fins, ready to fight. Two very different fish deserve different funerals. The more peaceful Jagger fit a sky burial like the Tibetans used to practice, although I catapulted him into the air rather than waiting for the birds to pick him apart. Bowie fit a celebratory Viking funeral where he was sent down the river on a flaming raft. I invited guests to the funeral— some who knew the bettas well and some who had only seen them in passing. Everyone shared a story about the fish— some about Bowie and some about Jagger.