Etienne de France – Tales of a Sea Cow

2012, March 30 to June 24 – Parco Arte Vivente, Torino (Italy)

Curated by Annick Bureaud – Opening: March 29 at 6.30 pm

Copyright © 2012, Etienne De France

In a finis terrae like scenery – rarefied, cold and blurring – takes place the story of a scientific team engaged in a field research across the seas of Iceland and Greenland, in order to prove (at least in the form of sound recordings) the survival of some specimens of the “Steller’s Rhytine” – a marine mammal declared extinct. Science or science fiction?

Chronicle of an adventure as well as methodological exercise, the multimedia project by Etienne De France (living in Paris and Reykjavik) blurs reality and fiction, retracing and reshaping the traces of a world both virtual and potential, a plausible Otherwhere, which is mirror and metaphor of the Real.

Opening hours: from Wednesday to Friday, 1 pm – 6 pm ; Saturday and Sunday, 12 am – 19 pm
PAV – Parco Arte Vivente, Via Giordano Bruno 31.


  • Inner focus: March 28th, 5 pm, Accademia Albertina delle Belle Arti, via Accademia Albertina 6.  Speakers: Etienne de France, Massimo Melotti (ethics of communication) and Maria Teresa Roberto (phenomenology of contemporary arts).
  • Press conference: March 29th, 11 am, PAV – Parco Arte Vivente


Collaborating with paleo-zoologists and biologists, the artist retraces every tiny detail concerning the existence of Steller’s rhytine and reconstructs its world – its habitat, the routes it used to follow, its behavioural patterns – trying to fill the void created by the animal’s extinction. Exploiting the latest scientific methods and techniques, De France imagines and follows a team of experts engaged in checking reports of some unexpected sightings, looking for confirmation, at least in the form of sound recordings, to prove the survival of some specimens of the long-lost Sirenian.

The result is a blend of science and fiction, a return to the atmosphere beloved of Jules Verne, in which elements of the real are interwoven with the dimension of the possible, perhaps with that of dreams.

Within the framework of PAV Educational and Teaching Activities, curated by Orietta Brombin, Tales of a Sea Cow becomes the starting point for the workshop Gulliver’s Travel, dedicated to exploring in depth the theme of otherness through the curious eyes of the traveler of the eighteenth-century literary genre.

In the area of education for young artists and adults in general, on Saturday June 2nd the theme will be taken up again by Piero Gilardi in a public workshop entitled Noi come animali (Us as animals).

By Sacha Kagan

Research Associate at the ISCO - Institute of Sociology and Cultural Organization (ISKO - Institut für Soziologie und Kulturorganisation), Leuphana University Lueneburg, Sacha Kagan founded the International level of Cultura21, Network for Cultures of Sustainability, as well as the International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation (ASSiST). The focus of his research and cultural work lies in the trans-disciplinary field of arts and (un-)sustainability. Doctor in Philosophy (Leuphana University Lueneburg) with a thesis on the subject of culture, the arts and sustainability under the perspective of complexity ; M.A. in Cultural Economics (Erasmus University Rotterdam) ; and Graduate of Sciences Po Bordeaux (political sciences). For Cultura21, Sacha is also coordinating the eBooks series, the regular updates on our multi-lingual website, the English section of our webmagazine and the work of our Lueneburg-based interns.

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