April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ever since I first ran a column that suggested that my wife and I are looking for a bigger house, people have been asking me how the search is going.

You’d think that big houses wouldn’t be hard to find. They’re big. How can they hide?

So usually, I try to change the topic. Which reminds me, we haven’t spoken about art in a while.

Frequent readers of my column will know that I don’t really understand art. For example, I don’t understand the artist in France, Abraham Poincheval, who recently spent two weeks living inside a bear.

Okay, this bear wasn’t alive. I don’t know if that makes it better.

The bear in question was actually a stuffed bear. Not a teddy bear—an actual adult grizzly bear, stuffed. And then hollowed out again, and then sterilized, of course, and then refitted with a solid frame so it wouldn’t just be a person living in a bearskin rug.

I suppose this living situation leaves you with a lot of questions, mostly bathroom related. So I should explain: He didn’t just climb into a random bear. He fully prepped it first, setting up the frame so that his entire body was in a reclining position in the bear’s torso, and then he used the bear’s legs for storage.

He then entered through a hole that he cut in the side of the animal, which I think is cheating. He also brought in anything he thought he’d need, including books, a water supply, food and some sort of deodorizer for the bear.

He also had a fire extinguisher. I don’t know what he thought would happen in there.

But that was pretty much it. There’s not a lot of room inside a bear. You have to bring in just the, um, bear necessities.

Okay, even the bear just groaned.

This whole piece was part of an artistic genre called “performance art.” Performance art is a performance that is boring to watch all the way through, but it’s art. Like a school play. Or like when you’re living in a bear. It’s something to see, but no one wants to watch two weeks of that. They want to see about five minutes.

The piece was on display at the Museum of Hunting and Nature in France, which boasts a huge collection of stuffed animals, though the vast majority of them are not stuffed with people. The bear was sealed, so visitors couldn’t actually see him, but they knew he was in there because of video monitors at the side of the room, which allowed them to watch hours of footage of Abraham reading, adjusting his pillow to find the cool side and doing that thing where you wake up and have a momentary panic about where you are.

“Oh, I’m in a bear. Okay. I was scared for a second.”

He also spent the two weeks working out what to say when people asked him why he did it.

“The point of the piece,” he said, “was to test my physical limits while allowing me to get in touch with my animal instincts.”

Animal instincts? It’s not like he’s hunting and fishing in there.

Though technically, he is hibernating. Inside a bear. So that counts. He’s just like a bear who seals up in a cave for months with nothing but a little bit of food, water, some books and a fire extinguisher.

So it’s like getting in touch with nature, but for lazy people. And it happens to be that this is a great vacation idea for the summer. Like let’s say you want to go camping, but your wife doesn’t, because firstly, she doesn’t want to sleep under the open sky, and second, she’s worried that she might get eaten by a bear. So this is a solution! Where are her excuses now, huh?

But speaking of people living in small spaces, there’s a house in Warsaw called the Keret House, which is said to be the thinnest house in the world. It’s located in the gap between two apartment buildings, and is four feet wide at its widest point.

The house was built by architect Jakub Szczesny, who was passing two buildings in the Warsaw Ghetto, and he said, “Hey! I bet I can build an apartment there!” So he called city hall, and he said, “I would like to buy the property between those two buildings,” and they said, “What property?”

But he wasn’t crazy enough to actually live there. So he rents it out to writers and artists, the idea being that they can have the peace and quiet of living between two apartment buildings, and, when they’re short on ideas, staring at the walls, which are really up close. Supposedly, small spaces bolster creativity.

Let’s put it this way: Most of a writer’s life is about pushing off writing. If I’m ever writing something, it’s only because I’m pushing off writing something else. But one of the main ways I push off writing is by cleaning. So logic says that the less space you have to clean, the less you procrastinate. That sounds like it makes sense, right?

At the very least, it keeps out distractions. Like visitors.

“Um, where do I sit?”

I guess maybe the point is that we don’t live in a small house, we live in an artistic house. I’m not complaining.

By Mordechai Schmutter

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].


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