By now, randomly staged interruptions of pedestrians’ lives have become somewhat commonplace. It’s one thing when a musical breaks out in a mall or a joke unfurls in the sky, though, and quite another when what looks like an enormous beached whale shows up in your area.
People living near various riverbanks in Europe can expect their lives to be filled with 100% more sperm whales this summer, as the Belgian collective known as Captain Boomer embarks on a tour with a hyper-realistic whale facsimile, with which they stage a fake beaching--complete with fake scientists (equipped with real info). As those at the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival already learned, Captain Boomer’s beached whale is an art installation, an exercise in community building, and a chance to educate people about the fate of whales.
"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," reads Captain Boomer’s website. "We create a circle of about 7 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 pretend-scientists then measure the carcass, take samples, and prepare to autopsy. Along the way they interact with the crowd about the species itself, potential causes of death, and why it is beached. Although the staging begins with only facts, the faux scientists eventually pepper in some other ideas for fun, like discussions on whether the dead whale is an omen. In doing so, they access the more emotional elements of the powerful spectacle of a whale beaching in a community--something that’s been happening for ages.
Captain Boomer’s first beaching took place in Scheveningen, Holland, in 2008, and thousands came out to see it. Director Philippe Verkinderen even shot a short movie (that’s not a documentary) during a recent beaching. The film is about a little boy coming to terms with a dying whale, and I would like to formally suggest a title change to: Goodbye, Willy.)
Have a look through images of the whale in the slide show above.