The Ocean Serpent, the second most visited French monument… online

Is it a rock? Is it a spike? Is it a heading? Anyone who approaches the Atlantic Ocean at Saint-Brévin les Pins, where the Loire ends its long course through France, inevitably sees a long, tapered shape. The carcass of what appears to be a gigantic sea monster rests on the foreshore. As you move forward, you can gradually make out the vertebrae of the Ocean Serpent, a sculpture designed in 2012 by artist Huang Yong Ping, a figure in the Chinese avant-garde of the 1980s. It is one of ten French places the most visited virtually on Google Street View, just behind the Eiffel Tower but in front of the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe or Disneyland, the Californian company announced on May 24.

The Ocean Serpent is constructed from aluminum. Its gigantic body undulates over 130 meters from its tail, located at the low limit of the tide, to its head, located at its high limit. Eventually, it must be overgrown with vegetation and marine life. Its shape imitates that of the Saint-Nazaire bridge and its vertebrae evoke square nets, horizontal nets used for fishing in the west of France.

According to the art critic Hou Hanru, the sculpture tells the metamorphosis of nature under the action of our civilization. The Serpent questions what the “post-human” will be like, as we deeply mark the planet.

L’Atta des Titans

The search engine struggles to explain its virtual success. The comments left by Internet users attest in any case that the sculpture captures the imagination of visitors. Everyone sees in it the giant serpent of their own mythology. For some, it is the Basilisk, the king of snakes in the Harry Potter saga. For others, it evokes Jörmungand, the immense deity that surrounds the world in Norse mythology. The comparison with the “founding titan” of the manga L’Atta des Titans is also common.

“It comes up a lot in the comments,” confirms Thomas Guiot, communications officer for the city of Saint-Brévin les Pins. In the manga, the titan allows the main character to lead an army of giants, who set out to trample the world and those who inhabit it.

The prehistoric snake hypothesis

To explain the triumph of the Ocean Serpent, Thomas Guiot also evokes the « petit buzz » that sculpture experienced some time ago. “A Tik Tok account posted a photo of the skeleton and netizens believed it was a real prehistoric snake,” he says. Specifically, the carcass was rumored to be that of a titanoboa, a reptile up to 15 meters long that lived 60 million years ago.

More prosaically, “the work is very photogeniccontinues Thomas Guiot. He’s a social media star.” On Instagram, the Snake appears in thousands of photos, “in the storm, in the rain and even in the snow, which is rare for us”. Notwithstanding the success of the virtual tour, the Serpent remains far behind in terms of reviews: the sculpture has 3,755 reviews on Google Reviews. Far from the nearly 300,000 comments collected by the eternal Eiffel Tower.

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