Ethics in Art: Analyzing “Helena” by Marco Evaristti

Real Life Situation: This piece of art features ten white Moulinex Optiblend 2000 mixers, each filled with water and containing a live goldfish. These were placed on a table and were plugged in the outlet — hence, anyone viewing the work had the possibility of activating the blender and killing the fish. Therefore, the visitors were the “judges of life or death”. [1] It was used as an experiment to raise the question of “the power humans have over animals” [1] and the role of Ethics in Art. Judge Preben Bagger, for example, stated that the fish were killed instantly and humanely, insinuating that liquidizing the goldfish is not a crime.

Although the passage states that “Evaristti did not in any way encourage the visitors to kill the fish, but left the decision to them”, eyewitnesses stated that “numerous media representatives who were present (…) virtually encouraged the visitors to press the button in order to initiate a scandal” which they ultimately achieved. According to a CNN pole, 72% (which were 30,592 votes) thought Helena was definitely not art. [1]

I would personally not press the button. I believe that all living beings have the right to life, in the same way that you and I do, and so simply killing the goldfish for no good reason is cruel. I do believe it is Art, though, as it is placed inside the context of questioning human beings and the power they have over animals, which aspires to spark a discussion and controversial conversation among visitors. I recognized that crafting this Art work required creativity, however, I do not think that a great level of technical skill is required to create this work.

Word count: 290

Knowledge questions:

  1. In what ways does Ethics play a role in Art?