Cave of Forgotten Fish (2021) is a project made for Publiek Park, an art festival in Citadelpark Ghent, organized by the curatorteam of the Young Friends of S.M.A.K.: Adriënne van der Werf, Anna Laganovska, Jef de Clercq en Koi Persyn. The work is published in the Publiek Park Walking Guide.
For Publiek Park, Mark Grootes creates a new site-specific installation in the Grotto tunnel called 'Cave of Forgotten Fish', inspired by Werner Herzog's iconic film 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams'. Herzog’s documentary of 2010 offers a unique insight into the caves of Chauvet, therefore unveiling the incredible cave paintings, depicting various animals, that were discovered in the caverns next to the Ardèche river. The artificial, rock formations of the concrete tunnels in the Citadelpark are constructed on the remnants of the original, military casemates. The three tunnels give access to the ‘hidden’ aquarium-grotto; a location that held multiple water basins for showcasing both local and exotic, salt and sweet water fishes. Grootes series of 120 assembled sculptures of shells, corals, fossils and pearls refer to the past presence of fishes in the grotto constellation. The installation is conceived as a fictional archeological site that evokes the eventful discovery of the cave and its seemingly historical sculptural relics, alluding to both cave paintings (alike the famous murals in Chauvet) and 19th century grotto decorations (alike ‘Shell Grotto’ in Margate, Kent). The implemented style of the English landscape park, as it is found in this area of the Citadelpark, originated from the urge to create a replica of wild, untamed nature for the elitist bourgeoisie. The Cave of Forgotten Fish' alludes to this absurdist tendency of reproducing caves and to the romantic execution of this artificial spectacle. Text written by Koi Persyn, from Publiek Park Walking Guide