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Trevor Yeung: An Ecological Look at An Aquarium
Trevor Yeung: An Ecological Look at An Aquarium
Video Transcript

(Original language: Cantonese) 

TREVOR YEUNG: I’ve been fond of small animals since long before I went to kindergarten. I remember when I was in Form Four, a few classmates—probably four or five— we all wanted a pet fish. So, we visited ‘Goldfish Street’ together.

Fishkeeping is something very important for my personal growth. I have learned a lot from it. After all these years of fishkeeping and growing plants. It has allowed me to express myself in a nuanced way. It became an escape for me offering me an alternative perspective to view the world.

All you have to do is to feed the fish and change the water. While that sounds trivial. It’s the easiest way to develop a relationship between a carer and the cared-for.

The exhibition is divided into sections. Everything in it, be it a courtyard, a pond, or the orientation of the landscapes. Everything around it is about ‘attachments’. Oftentimes attachment is not one-sided. It is always mutual or in different ways. Viewers may see themselves on how one develops an attachment. In a sense, they are experiencing the fishkeeping process. From the fish that doesn’t belong to you to becoming a pet that you seem to feel close to.

It doesn’t mean you have to keep any fish. I just want viewers to experience a moment with fish. When we look at a fish tank how much time do we actually spend on looking at fish? Or are we looking at ourselves through them?

When I was young, my family ran a seafood restaurant in mainland China. There was a seafood tank outside the restaurant. My first encounter with fish was at a tank displaying seafood, waiting to be eaten. People gathered outside the restaurant, but the fish tank was like a deserted island. When I was young, I spent a lot of time sitting by it because I felt like that was a space of my own.

The pet fish shops along ‘Goldfish Street’ used to have pink fluorescent lighting or blue reflective films, so that the shoppers there would lose themselves even further in it. We often wonder how much time has gone by when we were in there.

Things happen very quickly. When you see something you like. You take it off the rack, pay for it and leave. In that state, many impulsive decisions can be made. It is a state of ‘instant love’. When I was younger, I never thought about how miserable those fish were trapped inside plastic bags. But now, when you’re there, you hear people talking about that every time. This change actually reflects how human view our relationship with pet fish.

As a fish keeper when we care about the fish, we hold onto them so tightly to a point that we are squeezing them persistently.

This is not helpful at all to what you want to achieve. However, we can never know when it hits the spot. The way I do with my fish is to think about ways to make the system do what I consider to be the best. The tornado I talk about is what the fish themselves have to deal with inside the system.

I set up an aquatic system, which to me, everything in it is controllable. While in real life and interpersonally so much is beyond your control. Every fish tank, every aquatic system is actually an epitome of the society. If you have two fish and they are fighting, if you don’t separate them, they can only be stuck there and continue to fight. In a sense this is an issue all systems have to face.

While many of my works feature fish. In the end, it doesn’t matter, if we are really talking about the fish themselves. The point is to consider how you deal with your relationship with this attachment. If you only focus on the fish, you’ll miss out on quite a lot.

Have you ever kept fish before?

Fishkeeping has been an important part of artist Trevor Yeung’s personal development. Growing up between Hong Kong and mainland China, he spent a lot of time watching the turnover of seafood in the tanks outside his father’s restaurant. Yeung also started keeping fish as a hobby in his formative years. Since then, fishkeeping has allowed him to express himself in a nuanced way. Frequenting ‘Goldfish Street’ in Prince Edward also serves as a constant source of inspiration for his exhibitions.

In 2024, Yeung was selected to represent Hong Kong at the 60th La Biennale di Venezia. In his exhibition ‘Trevor Yeung: Courtyard of Attachments, Hong Kong in Venice’, he explores sentimentality and power dynamics through the concept of attachment. Here, attachment manifests feelings of connecting with objects as well as a longing for someone special. The landscapes of fishless aquariums saturate the exhibition with a palpable sense of absence and allude to the fragile equilibrium that characterises our relationships. As he says, ‘Every fish tank, every aquatic system, is actually an epitome of society.’

Curated by Olivia Chow, ‘Trevor Yeung: Courtyard of Attachments, Hong Kong in Venice’ is co-presented by M+ and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC).

Video Credits

Produced by



Moving Image Studio


Chan Wing Chi, Kenji Wong Wai Kin


Fred Cheung


Fred Cheung, Lau Tsz Hong


Fred Cheung

Subtitle Translation

Erica Leung

M+ Text and Subtitle Editing

Amy Leung, LW Lam

Special Thanks

Trevor Yeung, Olivia Chow, Dorothea Lam, Jenny Tam, Russell Storer, Mimi Cheung, Ling Law

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