The Pleasures of Fishes
Zhou Dongqing, active late 13th century, China
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), dated 1291
Handscroll; ink and color on paper
Zhou's painting was inspired by a passage from the Daoist classic Zhuangzi (ca. fourth century B.C.), in which Zhuangzi, strolling along a river, observes, "See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That's what fish really enjoy!" His companion Huizi remarks, "You're not a fish—how do you know what fish enjoy?" Zhuangzi replies, "You are not I, so how do you know I don't know what fish enjoy?"*
The following pieces are a response to this passage. They are contemplations on the nature of decipherability, the politics of contested legibility, and the conceptual leaps inherent in attempting to know the reality of another. What might the pleasures of a fish look like?
*The Metropolitan Museum of Art