For a man who had just spent a week living inside a rock, sucking oxygen through tiny air holes and storing days’ worth of his own waste in bottles closely around himself, Abraham Poincheval was admirably even-keeled.
“I’m a little dazed, which I imagine is totally normal after one week living in a rock,” the French performance artist told reporters who had gathered Wednesday at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo museum to see him emerge from the more than 10-ton boulder.
“I thank it very much,” Poincheval continued, referring to the rock, “for having been so enthusiastic about welcoming me.”
It was Poincheval’s first gulp of fresh air and glimpse of light since stepping inside the boulder to begin his latest work, Pierre — or Stone, in English — on Feb. 22. Since then, he had been sitting in a Poincheval-shaped cavity, eating soups and dried meats and, as he told The Guardian midway through the work, “travelling in this rock without moving, like an astronaut.”
He elaborated on that point after he emerged, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,
“It’s this strange feeling of a floating world, an incredible floating in this mineral capsule,” Poincheval said. There are very strong moments of getting dizzy, where the world is shaking monstrously.
“It’s a moment of happiness, it’s a gift,” he added, “but at the same time one must stay clear-headed. There are very strong moments where you lose yourself, where suddenly you don’t know anymore where you are.”
It may be disorienting, understandably, but he also says sitting inside a rock for days on end is not as lonely an experience as you might expect. In an interview with Agence France-Presse a few days ago, his voice muffled by the layers of stone between himself and his miked-up interlocutor, Poincheval explained that the sounds of the museum’s patrons actually helped him tell time.
It was the patter of feet and the chatter of voices that told him it was day; “otherwise, I have no particular sense of day or night or anything like that,” he said.
What’s more, “people seem to be very touched. They come and talk into the crack, read poetry to me, or tell me about their nightmares or their dreams,” he told the Guardian.
“They are not so much talking to me, I think, as to the stone.”
It is by no means Poincheval’s first exercise in endurance and isolation — nor his first time stuffed inside an inanimate object. Far from it, in fact.
In 2014, he spent nearly two weeks living inside a bear carcass a la Luke Skywalker at the Parisian Hunting and Wildlife Museum, repeating a feat he’d performed the year before. While inside the bear, he subsisted on worms and beetles.
“For him this act signifies a rebirth, a rite of passage, to pass from the world of the dead to that of the living,” read a 2014 press release, according to the BBC.
That’s not to mention the week he spent beneath a rock, in a hole in the ground beneath a bookshop in 2012, which he called 604,800 Seconds.
Or the several times Poincheval has pulled a Saint Simeon, emulating the early Christian Stylite by sitting alone for days atop a platform high above the ground. Most recently, he set up outside a Parisian railway station last year, sitting exposed to the elements roughly 60 feet off the ground.
For his next project, Poincheval will be returning later this month to the Palais de Tokyo, where he will begin a work he simply calls Oeuf (or Egg, in English). Beginning March 29, he will be sitting atop a dozen hen’s eggs for approximately three to four weeks until they (hopefully) hatch, only taking one half-hour break each day.
Those chicks that hatch, he told The Guardian, “will go and live with my parents.”