Inside the Collection

Samurai Fish Brooch by Sheridan Kennedy: A Fine Possession

Photograph of 'Samurai Fish' Brooch
2013/80/1 Brooch, ‘Samurai Fish’, sterling silver / stainless steel, designed and made by Sheridan Kennedy, Sydney,  2005. Collection: MAAS. Purchased with funds from the Yasuko Myer Bequest, 2013

One of the most intriguing pieces on display in A Fine Possession: Jewellery and identity  is this   ‘Samurai Fish’ brooch created as part of Sheridan Kennedy’s PhD exhibition The Specious Voyages at the Museum of Brisbane in 2005. The show included a collection of specimens and photographs that resulted from the fantastical, imaginary journey to the ‘New Hybridies’ (sic) undertaken by Kennedy’s alter ego Dr Diane Nhele Keynes. This tongue-in-cheek exhibition explored similarities between the realms of art and science, with Kennedy provocatively stating “It seems that Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is proving so valuable to us in the field of natural sciences, might as readily apply in the cultural sciences… an acquired knowledge adaption, a kind of survival of the fittest ideas… might not Herbert Spencer’s interpretation of Darwin’s theory apply as readily to culture as to nature?”

Photograph of Dr Diane Nhele Keynes working in the field
Sheridan Kennedy’s alter ego Dr Diane Nhele Keynes working in the field in the ‘New Hybridies’, image courtesy of Sheridan Kennedy

Kennedy proposes that, rather than humans and the environment being subject to complete random chance in our evolutionary advancement, nature can perhaps be more deliberate in its evolutionary progression by means of human creative process.

'Camouflage Moth’ by Sheridan Kennedy, part of 'The Specious Voyages
‘Camouflage Moth’ by Sheridan Kennedy, part of ‘The Specious Voyages’, Image courtesy of Sheridan Kennedy

The following didactic accompanied the fish in 2005.: “The so-called Samurai Fish (Rostratus aberrans) is not actually a fish, despite its appearance. Although water is its natural habitat it is amphibious and is able to exist for some time out of water, which has resulted in an unusual adaptation. The local inhabitants are prone to wearing the Samurai fish as live decoration, not unlike a wearable pet… Here we see the decorative object evolving an awareness of the simple expediency of survival – in its position of privilege on shoulder, neck or finger it provides embellishment and beauty which reflects well on the character of the wearer, and it receives in turn the care and attention that helps to perpetuate the species.”

Ahmed wearing Samurai Fish Brooch
Ahmed wearing Samurai Fish Brooch, image courtesy Sheridan Kennedy

Sheridan Kennedy grew up in outback Queensland which fostered an early appreciation of the natural environment and a fascination with natural forms and materials.

Written by Dionysia McPherson, Curatorial Intern

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