About: Two Stones And A Penny

Imagine  yourself traveling at high speed for 200 km in a straight line through vast blue  ocean, under open skies. You dive down 40 meters into the depths of darkness.You sing a song that travels across the ocean floor and speaks to your mother  and father, your sisters and brothers, your grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts,uncles and cousins.

They find you and extract you. Your daughter, Aurora, is  taken and she grows up in a blue and white tank, a flat, painted surface. Little by little she forgets her own language, and the connection to her own essence is  lost as she swims endlessly in circles.

Aurora is impregnated. Her little boy, Tuvaq, lives to the age of 3 years. She is impregnated again to give birth to a little girl, Nala, who only lives to be 1 year and two weeks old. Nala's airway is found to be obstructed. In it, two stones and a penny are found.


These three whales, Quila, Aurora and the father, Imaq, lived together, bonding for decades. Quila was impregnated by her own father to give birth to a little girl, Tiqua, the first calf born to an aquarium-born Beluga. She died from pneumonia at the age of only 3 years. Imaq was transferred to a facility far away from Vancouver, to Texas.

A 1996 by-law imposes restrictions on the capture of cetaceans in the wild for display. Aurora and Quila, depicted here, live on and are still on display at The Vancouver Aquarium.

The wonderful rehabilitation and rescue work done by The Vancouver Aquarium must be acknowledged. Their Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is a hospital for injured or orphaned marine mammals, which are either helped on the spot or released back into their natural habitats after rehabilitation. The Ocean Pollution Research Program is another new research initiative.

 When it comes to the wild capture  of cetaceans and their breeding in captivity, the benefits become less clear.Conservation and research are usually cited as the reasons. Genetic diversity is lost when whales  are bred in captivity. The captive Orca industry, for example, relies almost  entirely on one male. An inbred and restricted gene pool is not valid  conservation. Research could certainly continue on  whales and dolphins in the wild. 

 Jacques Cousteau, marine conservation  pioneer stated: "The educational benefit of watching a dolphin in  captivity would be like learning about humanity only by watching prisoners in  solitary confinement.”  Is there in fact any real educational value in keeping  animals behind glass walls?

           “Linked to mourning” is a phrase  coined by Eduardo Cadava, who regards photographs as always being ”linked to  mourning”. What one holds in one’s hand is always linked to a moment now  passed.  In viewing these two whales,Aurora and Quila, we too are linked not only to a moment in the past when I  made these images, but to the past of these two whales. 

This work exists in a place between  melancholy and celebratory. My hope is that a consideration of the aesthetic  beauty of these Belugas will raise political and ethical questions about human  to non-human relationships. Present in this work, too, are hints of the unrepresentable, the presence of an absence.

           Canadian  musician, Raffi's "Baby Beluga" song for children is about “Kavna”,who he met at The Vancouver Aquarium. Captured in 1976, she was never free  again in spite of the lyrics of his song:

BabyBeluga in the deep blue sea,

Swim so wild and you swim so free.

Heaven above and the sea below,

And a little white whale on the go.”

We are linked to the capture of these  whales, to their mourning for the ocean and their wild families, never to be  seen again. North American aquariums continue to  trade captive-born whales with other aquariums, and actively pursue breeding in  captivity. These programs exist to replace the captive animals that so  frequently die. The  impregnation of mothers goes on…          

-Tanya Linnegar February,2015, Vancouver


To view the photographs associated with this project, please click on the following link: Two Stones And A Penny

To view the video installation, please click on the following link: Video: Two Stones And A Penny