I just watched ‘Go Fish,’ a triptych film by Scott Smith and Nettie Wilde yesterday at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park on Hornby Island. The way they used three screens to paint a panoramic picture of the herring’s world, and the expansiveness of the shots, created an experience like walking into a marine mural.
One scene that has firmly imprinted itself in my memory was of the coastline, manipulated and flipped on one screen, mirrored on another. It resulted in a visual akin to a rolling wave, a coastline sine wave sweeping across the screens. Coupled with an absolutely incredible soundtrack, the overall effect was nothing short of psychedelic.
The story centered on herring, showcasing their vital role in the marine ecosystem, attracting an awe-inspiring biodiversity. It was a spectacle to watch. But what was missing was the other side of the coin. Pacific herring are an important food for most whales.
Living on the coast, I’ve seen how we’re disrupting this natural balance. Herring are harvested en masse, often for no higher purpose than pet food, while our local killer whales, heavily dependent on these fish, are left starving. This harsh reality, a subject of much controversy in our community, was glaringly absent from the narrative.
The film had these epic shots of fishermen hauling in their glittering catch. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, where were the images of the hungry killer whales? Was it deemed too jarring or was it a limitation of the production? I can only speculate.
Despite my critique, ‘Go Fish’ is a film I’d wholeheartedly recommend. Kudos to Scott and Nettie for offering us a fresh perspective on marine life. I appreciate films that make you stop, think and reconsider, and this one definitely did. It left me wanting to see more of the complex story, beyond just the stunning surface.
While the visuals and style reminded me of some of the work I’ve done, such as the project ‘Midway’ with Chris Jordan, I think it’s important to note that ‘Go Fish’ stands on its own as a visually arresting and thought-provoking piece. It uses its unique form to communicate the mesmerizing beauty of nature while subtly hinting at the darker undercurrents of human interference.
Remember to always look deeper, my friends. In every beautiful scene, there might be a story that needs to be told – and heard.
GO FISH takes viewers inside the annual herring migration when hundreds of millions of herring return to the Salish Sea. The spawn initially captivated us in different ways, with two very different images.
For Scott it was the three-dimensional wall of milt in the water marking the start of the spawn, at once massive and illusive, hanging off the shores of Hornby Island which he calls home.
For Nettie, it was the dazzling patterns of a seiner pursing its net full of herring…and 100 barking, roiling, hungry sea lions.
We set out to capture the abstract patterns found in the chaos and wonder of the herring spawn. Our decision to create a triptych grew out of an impulse to make art that was as compelling and immersive as the spawn itself. No narration. No interviews. Our job was to observe, not to comment. So, we leaned into the abstract – in pursuit of framing the familiar in an unfamiliar way. We figured if we could surprise ourselves as filmmakers, we stood a chance of surprising you, our audience.
GO FISH was made with the participation of both environmentalists and members of the fishing fleet. Our hope is to get everyone in the same room together with our fish…. wondering at the beauty and power of the spawn, and pondering our relationship to it. GO FISH seeks to bring a curious lens to capture the poetry and complexity of one of the greatest shows on earth.