21 GRAMS (extrait)

“The weight of five coins. The weight of a chocolate bar. The weight of a hummingbird. 21 grams. "
In April 1907, Dr. Duncan McDougall of Haverhill, Massachusetts, published in American Medicine an article entitled "Hypotheses on the Substantiality of the Soul and Experimental Evidence of Its Existence" which is the result of a series of experiments which 'he carried out with the aim of proving that the human soul has a mass and therefore a physical reality. In this article, McDougall qualifies his conclusions, being aware of the small number of experiments carried out. But he remains convinced that this unknown substance can be assimilated to the soul and that, in accordance with the religious beliefs of his time, it constitutes a clear distinction between man and animal. This experience made the headlines of the New York Times on March 11, 1907: "THE SOUL HAS A WEIGHT, ACCORDING TO A DOCTOR". In his interview with the journal, Dr McDougall states that in his six experiments: “It has been established that a mass ranging from half an ounce to one ounce (or about 21 grams) leaves the body at the end of the day. moment of the last breath ”and presents his work as scientific proof of the existence of the human soul.
Popular memory has retained only this result, accepted as scientific truth, and then the urban legend of the human soul weighing exactly 21 grams then spread. It still fuels the imaginations of filmmakers and writers today.
In this work, I want to deal with my subject by blurring the lines between documentary and conceptual art. In practice, it will be a matter of working with this strange fact and trying to give it a different light. To do this, I want to go back in the footsteps of Dr. McDougall, in Boston Massachusetts, and immerse myself in the archives of General Hospital Massachusetts in search of this experience, of this man, of the people who agreed to participate in his experiment, but also go to the different places of this story. From there, I will reclaim the story and put it into images. I'm going to work in the staging, with the factual image, using the archive images.
This work received the creation aid grant from the Occitanie Region in 2019.