Rayfish Footwear was a fictional company that offered personalized sneakers crafted from genetically modified stingray leather. This online science fiction story allowed customers to grow and design their own sneaker from a genetically modified fish, to question our (often all too consumptive) relationship with animals. Now, the company fiction is back: Catch Rayfish as part of FAKE at the Science Gallery in Dublin.

A phoney faux-pas expo?

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Science Gallery Dublin, known for being one of the most creative, innovative and artistic venues in Ireland: A place where science, art, technology and design collide, unleashing their combined creative potential.

What to expect at FAKE? You will be challenged to look at the theme of ‘fake’ from both positive and negative perspectives. From biomimicry to forged documents, and from fake meat to scandals and fake emotions. Expect yourself to question when is "authenticity considered essential, copying cool, and what is the boundary between a phoney faux-pas and a really fantastic FAKE," thus the curator writes.

This makes us wonder, how do we perceive what’s fake from what’s real? In the case of Rayfish Footwear, one of our first projects here at NNN, the truth about it being fake took a little while to come out.

An online science fiction story...

Visitors of the Rayfish website could grow their own sneaker with the online design tool: www.rayfish.com

As you may remember, the launch of Rayfish Footwear back in 2012 raised a considerable debate on new biotechnologies, and questioned our – often all too consumptive – relationship with animals. With the creation of this fictional startup, we aimed to make that discussion tangible in a concrete product, a customized stingray leather sneaker, which consumers could either love or hate.

The promise was simple: Grow your own stingray with a pattern that you design. After a good life in the fishfarm, your fish is turned into a biocustomized sneaker.

While almost ten thousand people had designed their own fish sneaker on the Rayfish website, showing their desire for a biocustomized sneaker; almost the same amount of people had protested against the company, resulting in an intense discussion on the consumptive use of animals in our society.

A selection of customer-made sneakers.

The Rise and Fall of Rayfish Footwear

During those days, the startup received lots of attention from prominent media, such as Wired, Huffington Post, among others, a fact that definitely contributed to further catalyze the debate. Rayfish seemed bound for success at the beginning, however, after animal rights activists broke into the company and released all the fishes in the ocean, Rayfish started struggling to find new investors. These series of events eventually led to more people questioning how legitimate this story was.

Not long after that, the fictional startup declared its bankruptcy and the true objective of the company was revealed in a ‘making of video’ titled "The Rise and Fall of Rayfish Footwear". This short documentary gave an overview of the entire project, its impact and the motivation of the makers to create this fictional story. Watch it here:

FAKE runs from March 1st until June 3rd at Science Gallery in Dublin.


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