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How Did an Art Exhibit End Up with an Animal Cruelty Charge?

Marco Evaristti is a Chilean artist who lived in Denmark since the 1980s. He is a trained and practicing architect and is popular for his peculiarity. But did you know his work with live goldfish in a blender ended up with an animal cruelty charge?

In 2000, a Danish art exhibition displayed ten working blenders with live goldfish. The on button was made available to visitors. At least two goldfish were killed by one of the visitors. As a result, the museum director was charged with animal cruelty but eventually acquitted.

The Helena & El Pescador Piece

Marco Evaristti’s work called Helena & El Pescador debuted at the Trapholt Museum in Denmark, presenting museum-goers with ten blenders filled with water and a goldfish swimming around the blades. The visitors were offered two options: click the giant on button to kill the fish for no reason, or don’t press the button and let the fish survive.

It was a protest against what is going on in the world, against this cynicism, this brutality that impregnates the world in which we live.

Marco Evaristti

The artwork might have been more evocative of morals if the blenders had been disconnected; instead, the blenders were real, and the switch actually worked. While the majority of visitors did not hit the button, one did, killing two goldfish in a flurry of horrible violence.

(Source: IFL Science)

The Animal Cruelty Charges Filed Against the Museum

Denmark’s police have fined the Trapholt Museum for displaying an exhibit that allowed visitors to kill goldfish by blending them.

This was following complaints from several animal rights organizations, the Trapholt Kuntmuseet, located near the western town of Kolding, received a police warning. The director of the Trapholt Art Museum at the time, Peter Meyer, was fined for animal cruelty. 

Evaristti defended his work by saying it forced people to choose between murdering and not killing.

It asks the question: ‘Do you want to kill?’ in order to show that we are masters at all times to decide between life and death.

Marco Evaristti

According to the museum, the exhibit toured Brazil, Chile, and Argentina with no police complaints. However, it caused a stir in Denmark, prompting the Danish Association for Animal Protection to file a police report. (Source: BBC)

Were the Animal Cruelty Charges Dropped?

According to a Danish court, The Goldfish were not treated cruelly as they had not faced prolonged agony.

The fish were killed instantly and humanely.

Judge Preben Bagger

The fish had probably perished within one second of the blender being turned on, according to an expert witness from the blender’s producer, Moulinex. Even a veterinarian supported to the claim that the fish would have died painlessly.

Meyer was no longer required to pay the fine issued by Danish police. The case only went to court because he refused to pay the police fee. The court was told that artistic freedom was at risk. The blenders were unplugged after the complaints, and the show went on without the risk of killing the fish. (Source: BBC)

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