One winter four years ago, some friends broke into my apartment and left me with a clean kitchen and an aquarium. The aquarium was home to a Betta fish, red and elegant. It came with a love not and some care instructions. I watched it swim, mesmerized.
The Betta Fish is not a glamorous spirit animal. Despite being beautifully colored and elegant, the Betta is an aggressive fish, unable to coexist with many other creatures. I learned this the hard way, hoping to realize my vision of a lively aquarium. Other fish were quickly killed, and I would find their remains at the bottom of the tank in the morning. Shrimp faired much better, as they were small enough too hide amongst the plants, and to swim away quickly when charged. Snails were also good companions, as they moved too slowly to catch the attention of the Betta, and came with their own protective barrier from any attacks. Even the Betta’s own reflection was not immune from attacks, as it was perceived as an intruder.
I empathize with the Bettas need for solitude, it’s territorial nature, it’s fiery demeanor, and it’s colorful display. With this project, I hoped to capture the regal coloring of the fish and the fluidity of the aquarium. At first glance, the “book” appears to be a simple box with minimal coloring. I used black cardstock in order to make the colors more vibrant. Once opened, there is an array of color and texture in reds, greens, and golds in each of the hollowed out sides. I opted to make a box contraption because I wanted to have the depth to layer paper and to to build volume. By leaving much of the delicate paper partially attached, I allow for movement within the structure. One can run their fingers through the aquarium plants, or blow air onto the Betta’s fins to make them flutter. The Betta, floating amongst the plants, retains it’s angry and surprised expression, while still radiant and colorful.