Will he or won’t he? The question that’s running through everyone’s head as Myles stands before the newest museum art piece: a goldfish in a blender. What could simply be an exercise in shock value, had filmmaker Glenn Komsky wanted to go that route, winds up being a grander social commentary on both the participants of the film and the audience itself.
The moral question of whether one should press that button and send the goldfish into a spinning, bladed death is made that much murkier by the ambiguous nature of its purpose as art. What is the true exhibit, the helpless goldfish or the people trying to figure out what to do with it? What is more disturbing, that someone might actually press that button or that there’s a crowd of people wanting someone to do it, as long as it’s not them? As an audience member, what was my true curiosity, whether someone would kill the goldfish or what it would be like to see a goldfish diced in a blender? Does PETA know about this? The short doesn’t give any concrete answers but it raises all the right questions. In some places our curiosity is satisfied, in others, thankfully not.
“Exhibit 42” is, quite simply, multi-layered and brilliant. The film tackles the battle of “what is art” while pulling the camera back and focusing on those that study it, as well as how one’s social status can change the definition of it all. It would be easy to fall into a trap of pretentious nonsense when pondering such matters, but luckily the film’s points are made with a paced subtlety and humor that makes one comfortable enough not to rebel against such profound thinking. For once a film that allows the audience to make of it what they want, rather than telling you what it wants to be.