The Smooth Handfish – a sea dweller with bulging eyes, a mohawk on its head, and hand-like fins that allowed it to walk on the seabed – was once so plentiful in the Tasman region, it was one of the first fish species to be documented in ‘Australia’. In July this year, it was declared extinct. What we know of its collective story – within the limits of human cognition of its existence and loss – feels so relevant to where we find ourselves today.
For many of us, 2020 in particular, has given multiple pauses to rethink the question, ‘What does it take to survive?’
We live in very difficult times, in the midst of multiple crises. We deal with a variety of profound losses, every day. The global pandemic has only heightened this. The frantic pace of the type of world and systems we’re expected to navigate has meant that over the years many of us have misplaced important personal and communal rituals. We have lost spaces for meaningful philosophical discourse, for connection with our living companions – human, non-human, across earth, ocean, freshwater, ice... Alongside, have we also lost the capacity to grieve what we have lost?
To reckon with this, The Parallel Effect – a collective of creators and thinkers – curated a virtual Vigil for the Smooth Handfish. Our intention was to provide a space for a digital congregation, to contemplate loss, grief, the parameters of care, the interconnectedness of conservation and radical hope, and “collaborative survival”. Contributions, from individuals and communities across the globe, took form through a variety of mediums: music, performance, webinar presentations, video essays and spoken word. As each uniquely mourned, remembered and responded to the loss of the Smooth Handfish, in communion they offered a collective expression and reflection of grief and survival in an increasingly complex, and often far too difficult, world.
Vigil for the Smooth Handfish was a space for global congregation and took place across multiple time-zones on Sunday, 22nd November 2020.
Perth 12.00pm, Darwin 1.30pm, Brisbane 2.00pm, Adelaide 2.30pm,
Sydney/Hobart 3.00pm, Auckland 5.00pm, Port Moresby 2.00pm, Nauru 4.00pm, Suva 4.00pm
Jakarta 11.00am, Singapore/Beijing/Taipei/Hong Kong 12.00pm, Dili/Tokyo/Seoul 1.00pm
Kabul 5.00pm, Karachi 5.30pm, New Delhi 6.00pm
London 12.30pm, Berlin 1.30pm, Athens 2.30pm, Moscow 3.30pm
Casablanca 1.30pm, Jerusalem/Damascus/Cairo 2.30pm
Lagos/Kinshasa 1.30pm, Johannesburg 2.30pm
Los Angeles/Vancouver 12.00pm, Mexico City/Albuquerque/San José (CR) 2.00pm, NYC/Lima 3.00pm,
Rio De Janeiro / Buenos Aires 5.00pm
Due to limited resources, the Vigil for the Smooth Handfish was conducted in the English language only.
The event was captioned and transcripts are available upon request - please see our accessibility guidelines.
In preparation for the Vigil for the Smooth Handfish, The Parallel Effect compiled this musical playlist which we would like to share with you.
These are tunes that take up a soulful space for us and our friends. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but rather an offering of songs which soothe, heighten and heal, and remind us of the transformative power of music.
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