Hayden Fowler’s Eel Song is a work in many ways typical of his practice, bringing together a range of references to spiritual belief, to science and ecology, and to the language of art gallery and natural history museum practice. The work makes explicit reference to the threatened extinction of animals – in this case the once-abundant eels of New Zealand’s rivers and creeks – while the symbolic eel itself suggests the return of ancient mega-fauna, albeit through an apparition that is technologically created.

For the viewer of Fowler’s work there must be recognition that, no matter how engaging the work might be and how beguiling the immersion effect feels, the reality of our historical moment is being dramatised in a way that doesn’t let the viewer off the hook – we are all implicated in the loss of natural habitat, diminishing diversity, and the spiritual and emotional impacts that these changes bring to our culture as a whole, and to ourselves as individuals.


The artist gratefully acknowledges that this project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body