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This Frenchman is currently living inside a bear’s carcass. He calls it art.


French artist Abraham Poincheval climbs into a fake bear, on March 31, 2014, in Paris, the day before starting an artistic performance in which he will spend thirteen days in the bear’s skin, at the Hunting and Wildlife Museum (‘Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature’). AFP PHOTO / AFP/Getty Images

There are few things Abraham Poincheval won’t do. Two years ago, he lived for a week inside a hole so small that he could barely stand or sit — underneath a one-ton boulder that choked out every bit of light. He called it “604,800 seconds,” and for every one of those seconds, he filmed himself.

He’s also lived inside what appears from this photograph to be a giant metal cylinder thing. In sub-zero temperatures. For art.

And now, as you read this, Poincheval is inhabiting a bear. A hollowed-out, sterilized bear carcass, to be exact. He’s been there since yesterday, and he won’t leave until April 13. That means he’ll eat, sleep, drink and — yes — go to the bathroom inside the bear.

Poincheval, according to the exhibition’s press release, has long had a “need to become one with such an animal.” During a previous performance, which involved him living in the French Alps, he “repeatedly encountered animal carcasses.” That got the French artist’s wheels turning. What would it be like to live inside one?

His thoughts on the matter got pretty deep.

“The transcendence between man and bear endures since the dawn of time,” the press release says. “A profound symbolism has existed since the prehistory, a symbolism that is still gripping the Western world’s imagination today.”

Poincheval wanted to make imagination into reality. Though such a feat — especially when it involves residing inside a giant bear carcass for a fortnight — isn’t necessarily an easy task. It takes patience. It takes calculation. It takes a very comfortable pillow.

The piece, which he’s filming with two cameras, is being held at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Hunting and Wildlife Museum).

“Thought as being the intermediary between the world of men and the world of animals, for a long time the bear was believed to be man’s ancestor,” the press release tells people to expect. “Becoming [a] bear and the wearing of [its] skin is to bring about a liberating choice between human nature and animal nature. … Right from the start, this communion between Abraham Poincheval and the bear will inevitably bring him to a state of profound meditation.”

Even the French press hasn’t quite known what to make of the exhibition.

Terrence McCoy covers poverty, inequality and social justice. He also writes about solutions to social problems.

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