New Media Artist Harnesses the Power of Goldfish for Interactive Instrument

A school of goldfish acts as an underwater orchestra in Hong Kong-based artist Henry Chu‘s “Fish Harp,” a new media artwork wherein an array of wineglasses arranged on a piece of glass have sound sensors triggered by the movement of the scaled swimmers below. The “Fish Harp” is part of the “Musique Plastique” exhibition at agnès b.’s Librairie Galerie in Hong Kong on view through January 12.

Chu explained the concept in this charming brainstorming sketch and an interview with the Creators Project, saying: “It’s just like keeping a fish. You don’t get much interaction (although you can smack at the fish bowl, but the intention is to ‘admire’ the fish. Observation leads to experience and understanding). I was looking for the most natural sound-generating method. Finally I thought of a ‘glass harp’ instrument. Fish bowl plus the glass harp concept became the artwork.”

In addition to his ethereal fish-sourced music, Chu is something of a maestro of musical art oddities, including “The Five Colors Blind the Eyes” inspired by John Cage‘s 4 minutes and 33 seconds of performed silence, which induces “a torture for the eyes” through flashing bars of color (and it totally succeeds, so do not click on it unless you want to feel like your eyes are being gouged by your computer screen); the “Painted Face” app that creates music along with a distorted face that you can wear on your head; and “Squiggle,” another app, which turns lines you draw on your iPhone or iPad into a playable virtual string machine.

You can listen to the fluid tones of the “Fish Harp” below:

Allison Meier

(Image: “Fish Harp” via Henry Chu)