Abraham Poincheval’s performances at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris this spring will see him live for a week inside a 12-ton limestone boulder and then spend up to a month incubating a dozen eggs. These latest ‘mystical journeys’, as museum director Jean de Loisy describes his work, are the centerpiece of a retrospective on France’s most unusual contemporary artist.
On Wednesday, February 22, crowds watched as workmen pushed together the two halves of the Pierre (Stone) exhibit, sealing Poincheval into a space carved to his shape and starting the clock running until the end of the performance on March 1. Air holes have been bored through the thick walls and the artist has access to a compartment containing water, soup, and dried meat. He is also hooked up to an emergency video link and cables are monitoring his heart rate.
Indeed, it’s Poincheval’s mission to become the “beating heart” of the rock. “The purpose is to feel the aging stone inside the rock,” he told Quartz Media during his weeks of logistical, physical, and mental preparation. “There is my own breathing, and then the rock which lives, still humid because it was extracted not so long ago from the quarry. So there is that flow, that coming and going, between myself and the stone.”
By pushing his body to its limits, he hopes to split with human time and experience mineral time, instead.
While loneliness is not a concern – during a similar performance in Marseille, security guards had to keep talkative visitors at bay so he could sleep – maintaining a grip on reality will be a challenge during and after the project.
Lack of access to bathroom facilities was another issue troubling reporters if not the artist. Poincheval told the AFP news agency that he would be urinating into empty water bottles and defecating into a small container.
“The stone will absorb some of the smell,” he said. “I think I can take it.”
After a short period of readjustment, the artist will return to the gallery on March 29 to begin Œuf (Egg), which could last anywhere between 21 and 26 days. This is the first time Poincheval’s exploration of immobility and isolation has engaged with living things.
He will be performing the role of mother hen inside a display case, taking only a half-hour break every day. He will sit or lie on the eggs while wearing a traditional Korean cloak made by artist Seulgi Lee and consume a ginger-rich diet in an attempt to increase his body heat and keep the eggs at a minimum of 37° Celsius.
The performance is partially inspired by the short story Toine (1885) by Guy de Maupassant in which a bedridden man is coerced by his wife into hatching eggs under the duvet.
If the project is successful, Poincheval has said that the chicks will be sent to live with his parents.
In addition to the eight days he lived underground in Marseille, Poincheval has spent 13 days inside a hollowed-out bear, a week on top of a 20-meter (65-foot) pole outside Gare du Nord, and months inside a corked plastic bottle on the Rhône. He has also crossed the Alps in a barrel and walked nearly 700 kilometers (435 miles) from Nantes to Metz in a completely straight line.
His ultimate goal is even more extreme: he is already five years into a project that will one day allow him to ‘walk on the clouds’.
📅 Abraham Poincheval at the Palais de Tokyo from February 3 to May 8. Open every day except Tuesdays, from noon until midnight.
📍Palais de Tokyo, 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France. +33 1 81 97 35 88