A billowing serpent-like body adorned with acrylic fingernails forming scales across its back, I had my first date with Echidna in 2019. Since then it has inhabited its maker’s studio causing slippery dreams……….
Extract from diary, 13th April 2020
I was standing on a small sandy island in the middle of a shallow pool. By island, I mean more of a mound of sand pushing a few centimeters above the water and just big enough for my wellie-booted feet. And by pool, I mean a glorified puddle. The sand was an anemic creamy grey colour, like freshly poured concrete; but it was natural and the surrounding landscape was marshland.
My companion – who’s face I never saw – was telling me about a species of eel that were carriers for a disease deadly to humans. I took this companion’s presence for granted, like that of a tour guide in a museum. I felt no obligation to respond to him, only half listening, his voice fading to a background murmur. Instead, I began to focus on two tiny, red and black speckled elvers suspended in the couple of centimeters of water that made up the pool. They floated motionless except for an occasional twitch of their bodies to keep themselves from drifting apart. A lovely little sibling companionship.
He told me about how people had begun threatening each other by using the fully grown eels as weapons, for example to rob a bank or extort money. An animated sequence flashed through my mind, a huge eel curled like a snake around the arm of a woman with an exaggerated cold and determined look on her face. The eel was illustrated with sweeping curves delineating its face and an intricate pattern etched down its body. The woman strode up to a table of friends in a busy restaurant. There was a man sat at the head of it, drunk and laughing loudly, dominating the conversation. He gesticulated in a gauche and over-enthused way, narrowly missing his friend’s wine glass with one hand while knocking another’s spectacles askew with the other. Then he saw the woman standing there staring at him. His hands dropped to his sides and the colour left his cheeks. The eel lunged forward and licked him from chin to hairline.
My mind left the animated man screaming and sobbing, and cut back to me crouched down on my island watching the two elvers. My companion told me that they intended to eradicate the species so they couldn’t spread the virus. I half asked and half repeated, “we will eradicate an entire species to save ourselves? So we will kill one species to save another?” He said, ‘yes’, and seemed unwilling or perhaps weary at having to justify that act; like it was going to happen anyway so why analyze it. The wheels had already been set in motion. I continued to look at the sibling elvers and pictured the empty jam-jar in my rucksack. The light was fading, I would come back later.
Text By Jocelyn McGregor. Echidna was first part of a larger installation Home Sick in an exhibition titled Rain Wetting Thirst