For 19 days, Belgian artist Mikes Poppe chiseled away at a massive block of marble. Occasionally, he'd take breaks, walking a few feet away to a small toilet, a mattress on the floor, or to a desk where he'd sit and draw or have a meal. But he'd always return to the block with his hammer and chisel as viewers watched online and in person inside a courthouse in Ostend, Belgium. Poppe's goal? To reach the chain within the marble block and cut himself free, reports Reuters. On Wednesday, he gave up the attempt. As seen in a Guardian video, a saw was used to cut the chain around 6pm local time when Poppe failed to break through the last bit of stone overlaying it, per the artist's website.
It was a not-so-surprising end to the 438-hour performance, which began on Nov. 10. "This block was symbolic of history, the history of art, which I am trying to free myself from," Poppe says. "I discovered that this is not possible. It is burden which I must always carry." He adds, through this work and others, "I tried to look for hope and despair through emotions and poetry, and to communicate this to my audience." The performance was part of a larger art installation taking place in Ostend over the course of November, according to the city's website. Titled "The Raft. Art is (not) lonely," it involved performances at 22 venues, including the courthouse, stables at a horse racing track, and the vaults of a church. (An artist previously lived in a boulder.)