Bloc Erratique

Les Frères Chapuisat

Inauguration September 5, 2009

The Erratic Block is the response given by the Chapuisat brothers to their invitation to participate in the 2009 edition of the Eternal Tour festival (E.T.) which took place from September 3rd to 13th in the canton of Neuchâtel. The E.T. festival conceptually and pragmatically interrogates movement. It is a festival that not only uses 21st century cosmopolitanism as a theme, starting from the Grand Tour, to analyze movements in contemporary populations, but is also itself in movement (Rome 2008; Neuchâtel 2009; Jerusalem 2010; Las Vegas 2011). The “Erratic block” forms the semantic chiasmus of the “eternal tour”.

The installation of the Erratic Block consists of a monumental sculpture that mimics an enormous boulder (about 5.6 x 8 x 7 meters). It is located in the park of the Musée d’Ethnographie de Neuchâtel (MEN).  The hollow and empty block (at least during its inauguration) is the link between E.T., the CAN and the MEN, the last having inaugurated its exposition September 5th 2009, Eclectic Heidiland, which questions the distinction between intellectual culture and popular culture.

Erratic blocks had remained a mystery for geologists of the 18th and 19th century who had elaborated many theories to explain the presence of these gigantic boulders foreign to the geological layers of where they are found. Amongst these theories we can cite, major volcanic explosions which would have thrown these boulders from the Alps all the way to the Jura, or icebergs that would have transported these boulders until they melted and the boulders sank, at a time when oceans covered our lands. Even though popular knowledge already attributed the movements of these boulders to glaciers, the scientists of the time refuted this theory for it was in contradiction with the paradigm according to which the planet was constantly cooling since its beginning, therefore could not have come from larger glaciers. It was only in the 1840’s that Louis Agassiz, professor at the Académie de Neuchâtel, proved that these erratic blocks had been deposited by glaciers during the successive ice-ages, which brought about a true revolution in the history of planet Earth.

Also, these boulders are still considered today by certain esoteric beliefs as magical sites. Therefore not only associated to geology (considered a science since the 18th century) but also to popular culture. It is in this sense that the Erratic Block puts in perspective the rational taxonomist classification inherited by the Enlightened Age and a popular practice of ritualization.

Erratic blocks are drifters despite their weight and unmovable aspect on the human level. They are themselves attraction sites and therefore a reason for movement for tourists and scientists. Their heaviness and obscure origins are also a metaphor for the sentiment of immutable belonging to a territory that most sedentary peoples feel, while we are all subjects of a migratory phenomena.

Within the context of an exposition in Switzerland, a fake boulder (erratic block or other) is of military tradition going back to the time of the “mob” (the popular abbreviation for the Swiss mobilization during World War II) of World War II and its bunkers camouflaged in natural and ideal landscapes. The brutality of these constructions, even though sworn to stay secret and invisible, guaranteeing an area of security and retreat compared to the rest of the world, constitutes, to some, the incarnation of a type of Swiss protectionism. The outward stability of the Erratic Block shall be foiled by an internal device that will be conceived and developed by the Chapuisat brothers during the five years following its inauguration, at which point the sculpture should be destroyed.

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