Artist to turn death row inmate into fish food

Artist to turn death row inmate into fish food
Photo: DPA
A Denmark-based artist is planning to use the body of a Texas murderer as fish food for an installation in Germany after the man is executed. The project aims to spark debate about capital punishment, he told The Local.

Confessed triple-murderer Gene Hathorn has willed his body to artist Marco Evaristti, who plans to freeze dry the corpse and have exhibition visitors feed it to a tank of goldfish.

“This may seem obscene,” Evaristti told The Local of the idea he conceived in April. “But I don’t think there is anything wrong with this kind of art piece. If you kill people with the authorization of the state it is a heady matter, and to make fish food with a dead body that is going to rot six feet under anyway is not such a big deal.”

Goldfish have a particular relevance to Evaristti’s message against what he calls “state authorized homicide.” In 2000, he made headlines with a controversial installation of 10 functioning blenders containing live goldfish in Denmark.

“The new idea is to turn it around,” Evaristti said. “If you were against killing the fish in the blender, think about what will happen if the fish don’t eat. The audience has to participate to be human by giving food to the fish if they are good people, otherwise it will be a big fish cemetery.”

Evarissti has been to visit Hathorn, 47, at his Livingston, Texas prison four times, and says he will attend his execution, which is pending a final appeal. The two have developed a personal relationship and correspond regularly by mail, Evarissti said.

The Chilean artist, who is known for making meatballs out of his own fat and serving them to a dinner party in 2007, hopes to exhibit the new work in Germany because it has the most powerful “avant-garde” influence in the European art community. He said he has had several offers from public institutions, which he prefers to more elite galleries.

“It is important to show the work where the audience is normal, and maybe don’t normally go to exhibitions,” he said. “It’s important that it’s not just the elite, but those who get a political vote on issues like these.”

He also hopes to bring the installation to New York so that a US audience can contemplate capital punishment, he said.

There has been some question as to whether the donation of Hathorn’s body for such a purpose is legal, but Evarissti says he believes there won’t be a problem after discussing the matter with Texas authorities.

“Normally the inmates donate their bodies to science experiments, and this is kind of an art experiment,” he said.