The Cast Whale Project
The Cast Whale Project was initiated 2008 by German based artist, Gil Shachar. The vision was to create a sculpture of a large dead beached whale by moulding it and presenting it exactly as it lay on the beach. After some years of research and preparations the project was finally realised in South Africa.
In August 2018 the Cast Whale Project team was able to take a mould off a recently deceased Humpback Whale which had washed up on a stretch of sandy beach, 3 days earlier, near the town of Lambert’s Bay on the Atlantic coastline of South Africa. The whale was an adult male of undetermined age and unknown cause of death.
The Cast Whale team only had 3 days to make a fibreglass and polyester resin mould of the whale as it lay stranded just above the high tide mark. A subsequent spring tide, shortly after the mould was completed, washed the whale back out to sea where over the following months its body disintegrated, occasionally washing up in sections on the same stretch of beach.
The mould was subseqently transported in over 30 sections to the workshop in Salt River. Here, during the months of March and April 2019, the artist and a group of South African artists and fabricators joined to form the casting team. After the mould was assembled and prepared, casting was done by hand, brushing on layers of polyurethane elastomer, epoxy resin and woven fibreglass fabric. An alkyd paint was used to give the sculpture its final finish. It took ten weeks to complete the casting and painting of the sculpture, which has a total surface area of approximately 100 square meters.
The sculpture is fundamentally a complete body cast of that part of the whale which was visible above the sand. It washed up on its back.
Dimensions: 13.8 meters from the flukes (tail) to the front of the head and 8.7 meters between the tips of left and right flippers.
The Cast Whale Project are:
Gil Shachar, Lachlan Matthews, Greg Dunn, AntheA Delmotte
Casting team in Lambert’s Bay: Nigel Angle, Warren Angle, Dirk Boonzaaier, Wilbert Boonzaaier, AntheA Delmotte, Greg Dunn, Francois Engelbrecht, Lachlan Matthews (team leader), Gil Shachar
Casting team in Cape Town (Cast Force 1): AntheA Delmotte, Greg Dunn, Lachlan Matthews, Gil Shachar
Assistance: Cryton Philip, Liston Ziwa
Security: Boeta Unarmed Response
Thanks to Mark Auret for the hospitality in Salt River
Big thanks to Manus Holm for supporting the project in so many ways Special thanks to Derek Ohland for the invaluable help and encouragement.
A big Thank you to the supporters of the Cast Whale Project crowdfunding campagne on Kickstarter.
The encounter with a stranded whale brings to one's imagination a parallel world, a world which has been imprinted upon one's (sub) consciousness since early childhood. Whales appear in children's stories, in mythology, in the great religious traditions, in fairy tales, fables, poetry and literature. In all these sources they invariably represent a tremendous power, a wonder of nature of high intelligence - but one which is also capable of turning into a monster. The whale becomes a projection screen for our imagination, a container of transformation and of rebirth. The scarcer an encounter with a whale becomes, the more it gains in symbolic power. The direct presence of a whale often triggers feelings of being overwhelmed and of the sublime. Even in the past, it was the privilege of very few people to actually see a whale. Although our technical ability to observe whales has advanced immensely compared to past centuries, it has become more difficult to do so due to their increasing rareness. The whale represents not only a paradise lost of our childhood, it also embodies the ideal state of the pre-industrial world in which the systematic destruction of nature by man was not yet imaginable. The encounter with a whale might therefore arouse feelings of melancholy and mourning, for we know – this is a world which soon could vanish as a result of the activities of mankind. Whales, like us, are mammals raised on mother's milk, and are organized in social structures. Amazingly, the whales were originally evolved from terrestrial animals, which over time, adapted to aquatic environments - and gradually emerged as giants of our oceans. Their often enigmatic stranding can perhaps therefore be understood as an act of homecoming.
The Cast Whale Project was supported by The NRW Art Foundation.
The project was made possible by a permit from The Department of Environmental Affairs, Republic of South Africa.