Belgian artist rescued after 19 days chained to marble block in the name of art

Mikes Poppe, 24, on day 14 of his performance entitled De Profondis, where he slept, ate and worked with his leg attached to a heavy metal chain.
Mikes Poppe, 24, on day 14 of his performance entitled De Profondis, where he slept, ate and worked with his leg attached to a heavy metal chain.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ MIKES POPPE

BRUSSELS (AFP) - A Belgian artist who chained himself to a marble block to demonstrate the weight of history had to be rescued after 19 days trying and failing to chisel himself free.

Mikes Poppe slept, ate and worked with his leg attached to a heavy metal chain which was buried in the 3-ton lump of stone at the court house in the port of Ostend.

When the exhausted artist, whose performance entitled De Profondis was live-streamed, was unable to free himself, the curator had to cut the chain with a blowtorch.

Poppe, 34, said on Thursday (Nov 30) night that he had no regrets.

"I don't see the fact that I was freed as a failure. On the contrary," he was quoted as saying by the Flemish-language Het Laatste Nieuws daily.

"I was able to communicate with the public, a message of hope and despair has been expressed. The act of getting free in itself was not the main goal."

Curator Joanna De Vos said he was freed "for practical reasons", adding that the deadline for the end of the exhibit which began on Nov 10 had already been shifted several times.

The exhibition's website said that the block of Carrara marble - the high-quality type used by sculptors - symbolised "the great art-history traditions".

"The artist experiences those traditions as both a blessing and a curse, Sometimes one has to break through the fixed mindset to find one's own voice," it said.

But Poppe admitted that breaking through had proved more difficult than anticipated.

"I really underestimated that block of marble, because initially I thought I would only need 10 days. But you cannot win a fight against time, and you can never separate yourself from history."

He added: "I am going to read the comments in the guest book and take a warm bath."

The block will stay as part of the exhibition along with a video of the performance and drawings he made during his nearly three weeks chained to it.