In June Fischer’s first solo show ‘Where Pikachu meets Seabunny’ she presents a new body of ceramic and resin sculptures that continue her ongoing exploration of the marine biosphere and its inhabitants. The exhibition centers around nudibranchs, soft-bodied animals, sometimes more commonly known as sea slugs. Ranging in size from 4mm to 60cm they are difficult creatures for divers to spot and it is believed that only around half of the existing species have been identified so far. In 2018, during a student exchange in Japan, when the Twittersphere was abuzz with sea slugs particularly two species called Jorunna Funebris and Thecacera Pacifica – the former resembling a fluffy Seabunny and latter a Pokémon character Pikachu – Fischer became interested in exploring these creatures further.
The scientific name, nudibranchia, means naked gills. Naked because unlike their fellow molluscs, land snails, nudibranchs lack a shell. The feathery gills and horns that most sea slugs wear on their backs are used to breathe. These beautiful and ornate organs give each slug a unique look. However, don’t be fooled by their sweet appearance. Being soft bodied, nudibranchs have come up with impressive modes of self-defense to protect themselves from predators. Some nudibranch species harbor stinging cells and toxic secretions, which are released through skin cells when they are in danger. Their so-called ‘bunny ears’ (lat. Rhinophores) are scent detectors that help them perceive chemicals in the waters, find food and mates, as well as sense changes in water pressure and vibrations, helping them navigate their passage across the ocean floor.
Fischer’s most recent body of works, created for this exhibition, entails a return to a childhood memory of wanting to be a marine biologist. She replicates and reinterprets these tiny and sublimely colorful creatures, as well as their environments, recontextualizing them in the space of the exhibition. The exhibition’s center is the ‘Mother-Piece’ a silkscreen printed ceramic sculpture that merges the eight reliefs or eight nudibranchs respectively. For each relief a chosen nudibranch was dismantled in its features and reassembled in the form of a relief, transforming it from 3D into 2D. Printed using silkscreen, it seems as if the nudibranchs were living inside of the glazed ceramic bodies, which resemble the water essential to their survival. Nudibranch eggs are placed across the room like rosette ribbons, sheeting in protective mucus. The resin pieces evoke the plastic bags containing fish sold at water markets, not only addressing the cruelty of this practice but creating a habitat for the nudibranchs in the gallery space.
The exhibition is characterized by a sense of absurdity and alienation familiar to Fischer’s practice, which creates sites where stable distinctions between reality and fiction are blurred. Yet pressing concerns around animal exploitation in capitalism shimmer just below the surface. For all its playfulness Fisher’s work raising important questions about the marine biodiversity, its beauty and the political urgency behind its protection.
June Fischer was born in 1995 in Zurich, Switzerland, where she currently lives and works. Fischer has a multidisciplinary practice spreading across photography, sculpture, installation as well as writing and audiovisual work. As such, her work seeks to transcend and challenge the boundaries between fixed categories and media whilst experimenting with the interplay between different media and materials.
Text by Zakiya-Jordan Singleton