Scientists administer to the body of a dead
sperm whale which has beached itself near
the River Thames in Greenwich, England.
Why does this belong to deception? Because the event of the beached whale is a performance, and the whale itself is a fake, a hyper-realistic statue:
We place the statue on the beach during the night and prepare bleeding and smell. In the morning the carcass is fenced, to keep people at a distance. We create of circle of about seven meters around the statue. Within this perimeter, the beaching is a true fact. The actors within the fence never drop their cover. They are scientific and official figures of a fictitious organization, the North Sea Whale Association.- The why of the whale, Captain Boomer Collective>>
Fully equipped they conduct scientific experiments. Measuring the carcass, taking samples of organs and skin, preparing the cutting. When they interact with the crowd or the press it is about possible causes of death, the history of the animal, its life style and why it beaches. They show their findings (teeth, spermaceti oil, organs, parasites…) and hand out extra information about sperm whales. They ignore or ridicule suggestions that it is a fake animal. During previous beachings, there was a cooperation with real scientific organizations, who, for the sake of education and fun, simulated their intervention in the case of a beaching. Gradually, the scientists/actors become more eccentric and other story lines are developed. A controversy about who will get the carcass/skeleton; the danger of explosion, the dead whale as an omen. There is a shift from the purely scientific discourse, to the register of myth and emotion. Conflicts and misunderstandings are also typical for hard-working scientists.
The psychological archetype of the dead big fish leaves no one untouched. It stirs and mobilizes a local community. During our beachings, we see an intensive interaction among the crowd. People address each other, speculate and wonder. They offer help and ask for information. The different layers of perception create funny games. Some audience members know it is a work of art but feed the illusion to other people. The sperm whale appeals to everyone, regardless of social or cultural background. It is the place where everyone gets together. That’s why it is vital it beaches on a public spot that is freely accessible.
- The Great Greenwich Whale>>