— Paris HELPLINE (@parishelpline) February 20, 2017
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.
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