Salmon: A Red Herring explores the deceptive reality of salmon as a colour and as a fish. Salmon is usually thought of as pink. The colour is even called ‘salmon pink’. However, farmed salmon today would be grey. To make them the expected colour, synthetic pigments are added to their feed. Salmon are farmed in open nets, whose runoff has a severe impact on wild salmon populations, as well as on the seabed of the west coast of Scotland at large.
Salmon is the colour of a wild fish which is neither wild, nor fish, nor even salmon. The changing colours of species around the planet are warning signs of an environmental crisis. Many of these alterations result from humans and animals ingesting and absorbing synthetic substances. Changes in flesh, scales, feathers, skin, leaves or wings give us clues to environmental and metabolic transformations around us and inside us. Continuing our work on the Isle of Skye, Salmon: A Red Herring questions what colours we expect in our ‘natural’ environment. It asks us to examine how our perception of colour is changing as much as we are changing the planet.
As the core part of the exhibition, Tate has permanently removed farmed salmon from its food outlets at all four sites across the UK. This institutional commitment prompted by Cooking Sections is part of a broader pledge Tate has made to interrogate our systems, our values and our programmes, and look for ways to become more adaptive and responsible in the face of the global climate emergency. This commitment is an intrinsic element of Salmon: A Red Herring and will form the cornerstone of the project’s legacy at Tate. Food plays a role in so many people’s museum experience with 19% of all visitors using one of Tate’s food outlets.
Farmed salmon has been a significant feature of the food offering at Tate, both economically and in its popularity. For this project, Tate Eats, led by Hamish Anderson and his head chefs Chris Dines and Andrew Downs, have created CLIMAVORE inspired dishes as alternatives to the menu items that had previously used farmed salmon. Instead these dishes will use ingredients that promote regenerative aquacultures, including bivalves and seaweeds.
This is part of an ongoing commitment by Tate Eats to address the sources of the ingredients used in its restaurants, cafes and bars. The new dishes will feature seaweed, an ingredient that cleans and oxygenates sea water in a process that works to improve our polluted oceans. Alongside these new dishes Tate has also brewed a beer in collaboration with Cuillin brewery. Based on the Isle of Skye, Cuillin Brewery has utilised waste oyster shells in the carbonation process, and local seaweed as an ingredient.
The exhibition is accompanied by a namesake book, unpacking more episodes about how colour is metabolising us, and a public programme of events that will run throughout the duration of the exhibition. Salmon: A Red Herring is published by isolarii (2020) and is available here