The Dent of Walter Umenhofer, 2015
When a whale stranded on the shore of Florence, Oregon, the Highway Division was responsible for removing the animal. At that time - 1970 - the beaches of Oregon were counted as part of the public highway system, therefore the Division was also responsible for the twenty boxes of dyna-mite that were packed into the belly of the whale, for the nervous countdown to the enormous bang and for sending into flight an animal that we call the heaviest in the world.
It is quite a responsibility for a person to keep a whale in the air. The animal rained down in pieces. Onto curious spectators who were enjoying the fresh air and onto the roof of Walter Umenhofer’s new car. For a whale may well be weightless in the millions of litres of water in which it moves throughout its lifetime, and it may even be weightless when it flies through the air in pieces, but a whale on the roof of an Oldsmobile ninety-eight Regency definitely has the weight of the world’s heaviest animal.
The Dent of Walter Umenhofer is a study in word and image on the relativity of size, especially with regard to things that are so much bigger than we are. I asked various people about the weight of the blue whale and used the reference points from their estimates as a framework for my study. With each answer, the size of the biggest animal in the world seemed to change.
How heavy is a whale? As heavy as a piece of the Westertoren, a few private swimming pools, a group of hippos, the inhabitants of a modestly populated district of Amsterdam. It is all true. Just as the folded out pages of this complete book cover the same length as that of the animal that is known as the longest, as well as the heaviest. When you turn the last page, you find yourself at the very end of the tail fin of the largest whale ever measured, or at the tip of its nose, if you prefer. We can continue to imagine its size, but the fact that a whale is big is demonstrated most clearly by the size of the dent that it leaves in a car and the fact that we do not seem able to fit it into our heads.
This project was made possible due to the generous support of the Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie and Advocaat Mascini.