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Loris Gréaud, The Geppetto Pavilion is on view at the 54th Venice international art exhibition from June 4th to November 27th 2011 at the Arsenale

INTRODUCTION

Once upon a time there was a museum that housed a whale, a monster that we had all seen, heard or read about.

The story tells the tale that after signing a contract with a museum; it becomes possible to live the experience of being swallowed by the creature and to live some hours of total isolation, breaking with time and outdoor surroundings.

But this story is also mine and I also know such people whom I saw the whale swallow, one by one.

Contrary to what one might think, miracles don’t try to amaze but rather, transport.

 

From Greek mythology to Pinocchio, we see the belly of the whale’s story repeated in folkloric and biblical legends. Many great authors pay homage to the myth of this massive, organic space. It is largely due to the possibility that humans have to live inside and return back to life.
The experience of living inside the mammal’s stomach is what we call "The Geppetto Experience". Having said this, the objective is to crystallize many stories, legends and folklores that have survived from ancient times through the ages.

We have compiled, archived and analyzed all of the stories about this obsession. We used precise descriptions of Moby Dick to the adventure of Jonah in order to accurately design the exhibition script.

We formed a team of lawyers, oceanographers and sculptors to produce an art piece that corresponds to the descriptions and result of our research.

We also imagined that this participatory piece would be situated in the center of the museum. This distraction calls upon the attention and contractual commitment of all visitors and museum staff to experience the processes and fruit of our research.

 

Following the descriptions of Mocha Dick (Moby Dick), the whale is made and carved on a 1/1 scale. The inside of the belly houses a space so that the spectator can actually live what it would feel like to be swallowed and expectorated, allowing them an extreme and fictitious experience that has only been made tangible in tales and legends. In this way, the viewers are offered a conceptual piece of art.

This piece also transforms the museum into being a transmitter of urban legends. In addition to being a space that offers a unique distraction, it gives a whole new meaning to experiencing a myth. This point leads to the challenge of this project. Which is, how to enter global fiction  and transgenerational folklore by understanding that the museum is a place for perceptual and aesthetical experience that changes the ways in which they usually view art.

 

There is no doubt that different reading levels and entrance points are embodied in this piece.

In the following sections, we try to clarify the guidelines for the creation of folklore by passing through to global mythology as well as the basics of quantum physics and the experience of chronobiology.

An important contract document was established with Master Jean Michel Attal thereby linking the artist, the visitor and the museum. The conditions of security and hygiene have also been respected according to European standards. Finally, we offer the all the samples of our research, located on the belly of the whale making it possible for the viewer to inspect.

 

Concerning tales and folklores, we seek to convert urban legends in a more present-day approach and place them under the category of contemporary legends. Therefore, the name by which we have decided to call this nebula is ‘The Folklore’.

 

Creating folklore:

Traditionally, folklore is a story that is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It also becomes a kind of collective cultural production. These tales, or folktales, as ethnologists and historians like to call them, are made possible by the tradition and communal practice of transmitting these tales due to the actual circulation and passing of stories. Thereby governing the creation and propagation of its future successors in a similar fashion but this time, using all genres such as the form as stories, beliefs or urban legends that also become assimilated into modern history.

Experts agree on the following conditions that compromise the creation of folklore:

- The form of narration (a short and structured story)

- Method of authentication made possible by convoking testimonials of similar methods as well as the date and place

.- The story also embodies a decryption and/or an interpretation of the world Having said this, ‘The belly of the whale’, is undeniably a folktale due to the presence of a recurring motif found inevery great tale or story. That is, ‘Once upon a time…’

 

 

The field of research we call today chronobiology is concerned with biological rhythms – the way our body produces it’s physiological oscillations and keeps it’s various systems synchronised.

It has been discovered that the alternation of day and night is not the source of our circadian rhythms, but it’s only function is synchronization of the autonomous biological clock. This central clock that receives a synchronization from the daylight is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus.

Among all the studies that allow us to understand the subtle articulations between these different rhythms, the relation of experiences in the temporary isolation is the most significant. Several researchers have indeed asked the question: what would happen with a person who’s completely isolated from the usual indications of the alteration of day and night (light, sounds etc.)? Would the person still continue to fall asleep at the usual time, or would the cycle of the activity would be in advance or delayed?

These temporal isolation experiments were performed on several occasions. For the first time in a cave, a place with a constant temperature, isolated from the outside world. The major confirmation was that circadian rhythms persist despite the isolation, which proved that we all have an "endogenous clock" in our brain.

 

Except that, these experiments also showed that the clock was not perfect and delayed for few minutes every day. In other terms, our natural circadian rhythm is a little longer than 24 hours, 24,2 to 25,5 according to the studies. And in other terms, in just 3 weeks of isolation one’s daily activity becomes a nocturnal activity.

The first study of "life out of the time" that allowed to clearly identify a human’s endogenous cycle of more than 24 hours took place in 1962.

This year, the French speleologist Michel Siffre had spent 2 months in an underground glacier. Using a one-way communication system, he informed his team about the time when he woke up, went to sleep or had a meal but didn’t recieve any information from the outside world. The evaluation of the time was up to him. When he came out on September 17, he believed it was August 20.

 

The whale’s role in the collective imagination begins with greek mythology. The story tells of Cetus, the mythological whale whose name was given to the consellation of the whale. It was petrified by Perseus, though the monster was sent by Poseidon to devour Andromede because of her beauty.

Then, it is in the Bible, in the book of Jonah precisely, where the animal appears again. Jonah, which means ‘a whale’ in Aramaic, had survived a storm on the way to Jaffa. As the only survivor, he spent three nights in the belly of the whale who vomited him out on the shore so that he could accomplish his divine mission of prophecy to inhabitants of Nineveth that the city will be overthrown that never happens in the story of Bible because of God’s forgiveness to the repentants.

The whale is like an arch in the myth of Jonah: Jonah’s entry into the whale is an entry into the period of darkness, intermediary between two states or two modes of existence. The death of Jonah in the whale’s belly is an initiatory death, his coming out represents a resurrection, a rebirth.

Since then the animal has appeared as part of the iconography and mythology that led to the emergence of the real phenomena in Melville’s Moby Dick, considered as one of the greatest American novels, inspired by a real white whale "Mocha Dick" which torpedoed the whalers on the coasts of Chile in 1830’s. The novel adapted for cinema and theater is a starting point of a tenacious contemporary phantasmagoria.

The last example is Pinocchio, the second Disney feature film inspired by Carlo Collodi’s story, which also mentions the sea monster’s belly as a place where Geppetto will spend some time before being saved by Pinocchio.

 

The Schrödinger’s experiment with a cat was invented by physician Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 in order to highlight the gaps supposed by the Copenhague interpretation of quantum physics; and in particular to highlight the problem of measurement.

The notion of measurement or of bifurcation is not explained or even indirectly mentioned in the quantum formalism and the attempts to raise this notion are very difficult. Consequently, some physicians do not consider the concept of measurement or of observation as a physical reality.

They consider that superimposed states don’t collapse and the measured state doesn’t really exist.

This is to reveal the paradoxical nature of this position and to highlight the experience of the thought imagined by Schrödinger.

Erwin Schrödinger has imagined an experiment in which cat is closed in a box with a device that kills the animal at the moment when the disintegration of an atom of radioactive body is detected.

For example, a radioactivity detector type Geiger connected to interrupter causes a fall of a hammer which smashes a bottle of poison. Schrödinger proposed hydrocyanic acid, which can be kept as a liquid under pressure in a bottle and which vaporizes as a mortal gas, once the bottle is broken.

If the probabilities indicate that the disintegration has a small chance to occur in minute, the quantum mechanics indicate that, as it still hasn’t been observed, the atom is simultaneously in two states – intact and disintegrated. The mechanism imagined by Erwin Schrödinger binds the state of the cat (dead or alive) to the state of radioactive particles, consequently the cat would be simultaneously in two states – dead and alive, and the opening of the box proposes the choice between these two states. Thus, we can not say if the cat is dead or not in one minute.

The main difficulty is in the fact that if we are able to accept this kind of situation with the particle, our mind refuses to accept easily this situation when it is something more familiar, like a cat.

Our intuition tells us that the phrases ‘the cat is dead’ or ‘the cat is alive’ is the negation of each other. In fact, there is a third possibility: the cat can be in superimposed state in which several incompatible classic states are accumulated. The problem is not the logic, the law of excluded middle is not challenged, it is simply the fact that the quantum object have a properties to be in contradiction to our everyday experience.

 

Extract from the Book of Jonah

1- Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,

2- And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

3- For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

4- Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

5- The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

6- I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

7- When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

8- They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

9- But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

10- And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.