Doktoratsprojekt künstlerische Forschung

A garden for a fish

Margit Busch

A transcientistic [1] garden is an evolving space, set aside for the display, cultivation, or enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature, as an ideal setting for social or solitary life and encounters with other beings. The single feature identifying even the wildest wild transcientistic garden is the striving of humans to create an idealized miniature landscape, which is meant to express the harmony that could exist between man and nature.[2]

transcientistic almanac (published somewhere in the future)

The fish that appears in the title is a specific fish. It is commonly called zebrafish or, in taxonomic nomenclature, Danio rerio. It became an important and widely used vertebrate model organism in scientific research, and consequently extended it’s habitat to the laboratories of more then 100 countries.

This fish is the central subject of my artistic research.

Zebrafish have attracted researchers from various fields, but it is rarely the fish as such that attracts the interest of the researchers. The fish serves a tool to gain insight into universal mechanisms and common principles or as a bioassay in pharmacology or toxicology.

In “a garden for a fish” I want to explore the human-designed zebrafish landscape. I will be escorted by the Umwelt concept of the German biologist Jacob von Uexküll (1864-1944). According to him, organisms can’t be understood  separately from their actual environment – their specific UmweltUmwelt and individual are inextricably linked, as each individual cuts out its particular and unique Umwelt from the surrounding world, according to its needs and capacities for action and perception.

The exploration of the zebrafish landscape includes personal experience in dealing and interacting with the fish (I became an aquarist) as as well as the study and analysis of scientific publications. Furthermore I am contacting   people ( professionals or hobbyists) that engage with the fish, hoping that they allow me insights in their zebrafish world.

I am using photography and filming – as Uexküll has done – but incorporate any other skills and methods (artistic, scientific, amateurish) to dive into the zebrafish environment and to develop suitable representation methods.

The idea of the (transcientistic) “garden” serves me as a guiding principle for philosophical as well as practical considerations and actions during the journey; the materialised “garden” (for the fish) is the envisaged destination of the venture, but I reckon there will be many intermediates. 

[1] transciency was introduced in my master thesis “IF-THEN-ELSE.Welcome to transciency”, in 2016.
[2] Michel Baridon, Les Jardins – paysagistes, jardiners, poḕts. 1998. p. 348 excerpt from
wikipedia / Chinese garden. Retrieved Sept. 29, 2020 from