Size and shock value are two of the big factors in why certain artworks go viral on social media. A third, however, is strangeness, which may account for why a sculpture of a hairy humanoid by the Tehran-based artist duo Peybak hit it big on Twitter this weekend.
A tweet featuring video of the Peybak sculpture, which resembles a being curled up in a corner, has garnered more than 28,000 likes since it was posted on Saturday, with many musing on what this mysterious creature may be. Few of the people who interacted with the tweet seemed to understand that it was an artwork, however, given that neither the artists behind the piece nor the place where it’s being shown was disclosed in the viral tweet. Only in a follow-up tweet was it revealed that the object was an artwork in a gallery.
“I came across this thing in Saint Germain des Près can you enlighten me on its nature please,” wrote a user who goes by the name payxdwr, in a post that now has nearly 8,000 retweets. “I am shocked myself and I have no explanation for this.” In one reply to the original post that itself has received more than 5,000 likes, one user suggested that the sculpture was a genetically mutated animal.
In fact, the work is from a Peybak show at Paris’s Galerie GPN Vallois. The show takes its cue from an H. P. Lovecraft quotation: “That is not dead which can eternal lie / And with strange aeons even death may die.” In the exhibition are paintings filled with flying beings that the duo has termed “Arbakan,” with sculptural versions of these creatures shown on the gallery’s floor in some places.
Per an essay accompanying the show by Agate Bortolussi, these beings are part of “the beginning of a journey towards an undefined, unknown region where thought expires and the body awakens in an uncertain, irresolute and yet static state. Creatures lay on the gallery floor, as if stranded, unconscious from this long travel to the emptiness of a shifting green or blue landscape lit by a faraway glimmer.”
The sculptures appear to respire and slowly move, causing them to seem oddly lifelike. Indeed, it was the person who helped make the viral sculpture breathe, a puppet designer named Monir Molavyzadeh, who helped make people aware of the object’s status as art. “I made the sculpture from soft sponge,” Molavyzadeh wrote on Instagram. “Inside his body is a mechanism and the movement of breathing is done robotically.”