Tag Archives: aquaria

A New Semiotics of Aquaria?

Banksy’s work gains social media attention as critical gaze continues to be focused on Sea World’s practices with marine life. Central to this criticism is the Blackfish documentary about Tilikum, a captive at Sea World, Forida, who killed a trainer during a public show, shocking a nation in which ‘Shamu is a lovable national icon’ Zimmermann, 2010 . Even if this icon is a fish (aquatic mammal) out of water.

Image: Banksy ‘Anti-SeaWorld Art’

Questioning of the moral, ethical, public and ecological value of aquaria increases with each gallon of seawater on land. Now able to host entire ecosystems on land, it is particularly the large charismatic species who are raising awareness of the inherent trouble with aquaria – it is an oceanic birdcage.

The ‘better good’ assumed of proximity to aquatic life, particularly in childhood, is countered by a volume of captivity that now speaks to incarceration for some. Never is this more the case than in aquaria that push the limits of entertainment and commercialisation.

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Whales, Aquaria and Disturbia

The film Blackfish, described as a psychological thriller, spearheads the increasingly vexatious issue of Whale keeping in Aquaria. Taking aim, specifically at SeaWorld, but applicable to the aquaria debate more generally, the film is described as: 

Telling “the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry” (Official site). 

Image from: http://blackfishmovie.com