Belgian Artist Chains Himself to Giant Block of Marble, Has to Be Cut Loose after 19 Days

A Belgian man had to be cut free from his art installation after failing to liberate himself after 19 days. Mikes Poppe had tethered himself by the ankle to a three-meter (10ft) chain that ran through a massive four-ton block of marble and spent 438 hours attempting to chisel his way to freedom.

The performance took place in the courthouse of the coastal Belgian city of Ostend. Poppe ate, slept, and washed there while chained to the block, all while live streaming to Youtube. He worked toward liberation from his self-imposed captivity by chiseling toward the stone every day, but after 19 days had to be cut free by a workman with an angle grinder.

Photo: Mikes Poppe/Facebook

“This block was symbolic of history, the history of art, which I am trying to free myself from. I discovered that this is not possible. It is a burden which I must always carry,” the artist told The Telegraph, “Apart from the performance I tried to look for hope and despair through emotions and poetry.”

The exhibition’s curator made the final decision to cut Poppe loose after talking with representatives of the courthouse, as she had extended the deadline for the performance piece several times.

The performance was titled De Profundis, which means a heartfelt cry of anguish, and was part of a more extensive exhibition. Although he admitted to underestimating the block of  marble, Poppe made it clear that he wasn’t at all disappointed by his inability to liberate himself, saying “I was released, I don’t see that as a failure. On the contrary. I have been able to communicate with the public.”

Photo: Mikes Poppe/Facebook

“You can never win the fight against time,” he added, “I am now going to read the many comments in the guestbook and take a warm bath.”

Belgium has a long history of surreal art, having been the birthplace of the world-famous surrealist René Magritte. Belgium’s best known modern artist of the genre is Danny Devos. He has put on 170 ‘happenings’ all across the globe, many involving an emphasis on crime and murder.

The surrealism influence is notable in Belgian culture. For example, Brussels puts on a surrealist themed parade every two years, and a hotel near Charleroi allows lonely guests to rent a goldfish for company.


Surreal performance art is the combination of visual art and drama and began with artistic experimentation over a century ago, but was brought to the mainstream by German artist Joseph Beuys in the 1970s.

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