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MUSEUM

Frenchman to live inside a bear for two weeks

As part of a performance art piece, a Frenchman will eat, sleep and live for the next two weeks inside a stuffed bear at a Paris museum. He’ll even take on a bear’s diet of nuts, berries and insects. Why you ask, is he doing this?

Frenchman to live inside a bear for two weeks
A French performance artist is going to live in a bear for two weeks. But why? Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Abraham Poincheval, 43, climbed into the belly of the stuffed beast on Tuesday at Paris’s Museum of Hunting and Wildlife (Musée de la Chasse and la Nature) and said he won’t emerge until April 13th.

The performance piece titled ‘In the Skin of the Bear’ (Dans la Peau de l’Ours) will see him living full-time, completely self-sustaining inside the creature he's had fitted out with a bed, water source and web cam for the project.

And why has he moved into a bear for two weeks? According to a statement from the artist, he felt the need to “become one with such an animal” after encountering animal carcasses during a previous project in the French Alps.

“For him this act signifies a rebirth, a rite of passage, to pass from the world of the dead to that of the living,” the statement says.  

Living will be a little more complicated for the next two weeks. Poincheval will be dining on dehydrated meals that mimic a bear's diet of seeds, mushrooms, insects, or fish and which are sealed in plastic pouches stored in his host’s legs.

Because Poincheval won’t be standing up during his stay, he plans to do two hours of exercise daily in the creature, French daily Le Monde reported. Part of his plan is a system of elastic cords that will allow him to keep his body active.

He also has 30 litres of water at his access and a drain by which he can relieve himself.  Inside his bear, Poincheval has installed an electric kettle he’ll use to heat up his food.

If all this sounds a little extreme, it's not for Poincheval who has already carried out similarly unpleasant-sounding performances, like one that saw him walk in a straight line (Ligne Droit) across France in 2002. In 2012 he was entombed in a hole beneath a Marseille bookstore for a week.

For people interested in seeing how he’s doing, there is a webcam that netcasts his experiences live. For those who’d like a closer look, you can visit Poincheval’s performance during regular museum hours.

And If you’d really like to keep the artist company during his ordeal, there is a chair and a stack of books, including "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", that visitors can read to him.

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ARCHITECTURE

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the
crowds.

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.

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