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Modern art: Frenchman to spend a week inside a rock then hatch chicks

A French artist is set to be entombed inside a rock for a week, then use his body heat to hatch a dozen eggs.

Modern art: Frenchman to spend a week inside a rock then hatch chicks
Abraham Poincheval. Photo: AFP
Like many young fathers, Abraham Poincheval has very little time to himself to ponder life's big questions.
   
So on Wednesday the French artist will be entombed for a week inside a 12-tonne limestone boulder in a modern art museum in Paris. 
 
“I think of it as an inner journey to find out what the world is,” said Poincheval, who has hollowed out a hole in the rock just big enough for himself to fit inside.
   
If he survives his time as the rock's “beating heart”, the 44-year-old will then sit on a dozen eggs until they hatch.
   
“It is the first time I will have worked with living things,” the artist told AFP.
 
 
Poincheval is no stranger to often bizarre and hair-raising performances.
   
He once spent a fortnight inside a stuffed bear, was buried under a rock for eight days and navigated France's Rhone river inside a giant corked bottle.
 
   
He has also crossed the Alps in a barrel and last year spent a week on top of a 20-metre (65-foot) pole outside a Paris train station like the stylite saints of the early Christian church.
   
He also played at being a human mole, and crossed France on foot in a straight line with a friend.
 
'Mystical journey'
 
But curator Jean de Loisy, of the Palais de Tokyo museum where Poincheval's “Stone” and “Egg” performances are being held, insisted that his work should not be regarded as stunts but as a series of mystical journeys.
   
Instead they are profound meditations on “inner exploration, on modifying the self and of living in other realms beyond our own,” De Loisy said.
   
The artist told AFP that he has spent months mentally and physically preparing himself for the practicalities of life inside the rock, where he will sit up with his arms outstretched.
   
Holes have been bored in the rock for air and cables for a heart monitor and emergency telephone line.
   
Poincheval said all he will have to eat during his entombment will be a little dried meat and cartons of soup and other liquids.
   
The only mystery is how he will go to the toilet, with the artist becoming uncharacteristically evasive when pressed on the subject.
   
Loneliness should not be a problem, he said. When he was buried under a rock outside a gallery in the southern city of Marseille, former prisoners who had survived solitary confinement came to keep him company and a “young girl talked to me about the violin she had just bought for three hours”.
 
Walking on clouds 
 
In fact, so many people came to “talk to the stone” that security guards had to be stationed around the rock at night so he could get some sleep.
   
The real wrench this time may be having to leave the rock after the week, Poincheval admitted.
   
After previous performances, the end has always been what he called “delicate”, marked by a “day in the dumps… and a lot of turbulence inside.
 
It takes several weeks to get back to normal,” he told AFP.
   
His next performance “Egg” will begin on March 29, with Poincheval sitting on a dozen eggs for between three and four weeks until they hatch.
   
He will eat a special diet rich in ginger so he can keep the eggs at a minimum of 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit), with only a half an hour break every 24 hours to keep him from cracking.
   
The chicks that hatch “will go and live with my parents”, Poincheval added.
   
But his ambitions do not end there.
   
His big dream is to “walk on the clouds. I have been working on it for five years, but it is not quite there yet,” he add.
 
By the AFP's Antoine Froidefond and Fiachra Gibbons

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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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