What happens when you pour red food coloring into a geyser? Last spring, Chilean-born Danish artist Marco Evaristti (MAR-koh EH-fah-ree-stee) found out. The artist poured more than a gallon of red fruit-based dye into an active geyser in Iceland. The hot spring erupted bright-pink water and steam. This was the fifth time the artist has dyed a natural landscape pink as part of a series of works called Pink State.
Evaristti did not ask for permission before beginning the project. Local landowners were enraged, calling the stunt disrespectful and arrogant. Police arrested the artist and issued him a $770 fine for violating Iceland’s Nature Protection Act.
“This is not art. It’s vandalism,” a landowner told reporters. He explained that Iceland’s environment is delicate and needs to be protected, not decorated.
Evaristti claims that the food dye he used was natural and harmless and that the geyser was back to its normal state later the same day. But many locals fear that residue from the food coloring could remain in the ground around the geyser for a long time.
The artist did have a few Icelandic supporters who called the work beautiful and thought-provoking. One woman remarked, “I wish that people would act this way when some of the big companies and governments are truly ruining our nature!”
Despite being arrested and fined, the artist believes he has done no harm. “Nature belongs to no one. I believe in freedom of speech,” he explains. “I decorate nature because I love it.”
Evaristti refused to pay the fine and left the country. He intends to fight the decision in court.
What do you think? Were the authorities justified in issuing Evaristti a fine? Why or why not?
CRAFT AN ARGUMENT
1. Why does Marco Evaristti consider this project a work of art?
2. Why are local authorities and landowners upset by Evaristti’s project?
3. Is the fine Evaristti faces justified?