Fish Condos will screen at the Spring 2022 New Jersey Film Festival on February 11


By Justin Almodóvar

originally published: 02/10/2022

Joey Skaggs: Fish Condos is a short documentary directed by Judy Drosd and Joey Skaggs and will premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, February 11, 2022. fish condos is the fifth film in an ongoing series titled Joey Skaggs: Satire and Art Activism, 1960s to Today and Beyond. The series, which documents the art and life of Mr. Skaggs, appears to be an instructional video series for budding artists to learn to master the art of creation.

Skaggs is a satirist, performance artist and activist and is no stranger to media attention. In fact, he forces the media to pay attention to his art, and once you see his work, you’ll realize he has every right to do so. In Talent Agency Bad Guys, one of the earlier documentaries in the series, Skaggs chronicles how he once tricked the world into thinking he was running a lucrative talent management agency. In Fish Condos, he plays the role of a condo builder who works precisely on a smaller scale than the average.

In the movie, Skaggs says “I wanted a better fish house, so I made a better fish house”, which sounds super heroic. It’s when Skaggs tells the viewer why he started making fish condos that we realize he’s actually our artistic hero. He says he wanted to comment on the rapid gentrification he was witnessing in his neighborhood at the time and the unfortunate pollution that was affecting sea life. These are massive topics of debate today, and the way Joey Skaggs has portrayed them in his art is to be admired.

It is interesting to see marine organisms living in replicas of the spaces we inhabit; all the things we deem necessary for our life are useless for a fish that will just spend its life swimming around them. Skaggs used dollhouse furniture in his fish condos, meaning he took items that are traditionally representative of an aspect of our lives. [childhood play] and incorporated them into a space that represents something completely different for each individual [a fish tank could represent hobby, companionship, décor, art, etc.]. This kind of mixing of different aspects of our lives can seem unsettling.

With one element of his exhibit consisting of actual living beings going through their own life cycle, and the other aspect being depictions of tools that we believe should help an individual navigate their life cycle, Skaggs was playing a very special role as curator. His only job was to bring the subjects of his exhibition to life by offering them an optimal environment. This is exactly what he set out to do; as previously stated, he “wanted to provide better homes for the fish”. However, if this is the case, we have to wonder: Wasn’t Skaggs playing his own version of the role of God?

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Of course, but this behavior is not a surprise. Throughout the film, he drops phrases like “I went to Atlanta to learn how to fly with my cousin” and expects audiences to recognize this as a laid-back experience. What’s interesting is that he says it with such serene confidence that we actually believe that, in the life of Joey Skaggs, nothing less should be the case.

What I love about Joey Skaggs is that he constantly challenges himself to challenge new concepts through art and doesn’t necessarily care how he’s going to be received. In the case of his fish condos, one can spend a lot of time unpacking all the things they represent. What we see in the documentary is that the world, in its vanity, has begun to covet Skaggs’ art, rather than seeing it for its metaphorical value. However, our outlook is still evolving and the latest Skaggs show [where he displayed some new condos] was in 2020. He updated his fish condos at include current political satire and has not been shy about incorporating the controversial Donald Trump into his articles. Joey Skaggs can’t be stopped because his art is alive on its own, so go watch Joey Skaggs: Fish Flats and see what you can learn.

Joey Skaggs: Fish Flats screens at the Spring 2022 New Jersey Film Festival on February 11!

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The New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2022 will take place select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through February 20, 2022. Due to COVID, our festival will be virtual again this spring. All films will be available virtually via video on demand for 24 hours on their broadcast date. More information is available here:

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