Stranger and stranger objects seem to be washing up on beaches and shores around the world. Recently the citizens of the French seaside town of Saint-Brévin-Les Pins have been witness to the arrival of the vast skeleton of a giant sea snake (serpent d’océan in French).
Yet it hasn’t had the world’s cryptozoologists rushing to France.
It is the new work by Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping and its message is more environmental than pseudo-scientific.
This huge sea serpent fantasy is made from aluminum and is a massive 130 meters in length. Stretching along the beach the serpent (created for the local Estuary Festival) affords the viewer dramatically different perspectives depending on the angle from which it is viewed and whether the tide is in or out.
Situated at the sea end of the Loire estuary, the giant sculpture disappears with every tide, only to reappear, its giant jaws wide open in a lifeless final roar. As a permanent installation it will be left to weather the tides and the elements and will slowly be encroached open by marine flora and fauna.
The figure and outline of the enormous sea serpent mirror that of the nearby Saint-Nazair bridge. The waters of the Loire River run past and over the creature then under the bridge where they run in to the Bay of Biscay.
Ping often introduces environmental issues in to his work and the serpent d’océan represents the dichotomy of humanity’s creative abilities against our impulses, simultaneously, to destroy. The serpent will be slowly overwhelmed by nature, its aluminum frame hidden by weed, becoming the home of a multitude of molluscs (among other animals).
As such it is perhaps a profound and rather sad representation of the fleeting impact our species may, ultimately, have on our four and a half billion year old planet. Fantasy, art, revulsion and – as the French might have it, tristesse – are inextricably bound together in a single skeletal form.