When the full-scale replica of Noah's Ark first came to Bergen, Norway on Sunday, people didn't know what to think. Were we all doomed? Was God's fury upon the Norwegian people? Was the punishment for inventing the onepiece finally here in the form of a crazy flood?
Turns out all my biblical themed fears were plain nonsense. After doing some investigation, I found out that the owner of the ark wasn't Noah himself but a dutch TV and theater producer named Aad Peters. Peters has been living on the ship for five years and is the owner of what can best be described as a floating museum of biblical artifacts. We sat down with Peters in his ark to find out what his bizarre exhibition on water was all about.
VICE: Hi Aad! So, tell us about this ark.
Aad Peters: Well, I bought the ship and then I filled it with stories from the Bible. It is 70 meters long, 10 meters wide and 13 meters in height, so it's not as big as the biblical ark, but almost. I've focused on the Old Testament, but there are some stories from the New Testament, because the two are connected. You really can't have one without the other. Journalists always ask me if this is a religious or a missionary ship, but it's neither of them. I'm a storyteller and the Bible has some great stories that I think need to be told. I see the Bible as a book of history.
I see. A literal book of history?
No, but there are so many things we don't understand in the world, like what do you believe in?
Well science has not been able to explain to me why I want to live. For example: If I shot you right now…
…you would try to escape and try to survive. Why is that? Also, why do I know that I am me, why am I self-aware? Science does not answer this. Science answers the question of what everything is built of. That everything is atoms. But this mobile phone in my hand, that is not me, but it is atoms. I am not religious, but I believe that there are many things that we do not understand in the world. Like the stories you hear. For example: there can be a pair of twins, one on each side of the world, but if one of them dies the other one feels it. The twin wakes up in the middle of the night and knows. How? Those are the kinds of questions I want this exhibition to ask, even though I don't have the answers.
How do you ask these questions with this museum?
The exhibit is made up of puppets, animal hides and bones. We used to have live animals on board, but not anymore. It caused too many problems. The puppets are made by different talented people from around the world. I bought tons of dead 1500–year–old olive trees from a failed vineyard and I let sculptors make them into characters that are in the Bible. I've also collected a lot of things over the years, so there are old religious artifacts in the collection as well. I have a table on the top floor with hundreds of broken dolls from the nativity scene. We have some interactive sculptures as well. We have a piece about the story of David and Goliath where you can pull a rope to hit Goliath on the head to make him fall backwards, but he always gets back up again. I won't tell the whole story here. You really have to think for yourself, and analyze. When people come here we give them a piece of paper with questions about each part to guide them through the exhbition and make them think.
What kind of people visits a floating museum with biblical artifacts?
All kinds! There are a lot of religious people who come, but some of them seem to come just to check if I got the story right. Some of them think I haven't got it right. I also invite different people here. I have some friends in Hells Angels whom I've invited and they seemed to like it. But not the Hells Angels from Flensburg, Germany, close to the Danish border, they are very violent because they think they are Vikings. When we first opened the exhibit in the Netherlands I invited a man called Udo Nagel, who had just opened a Darwin exhibition. I kind of tricked him. I asked if I could wash his feet, like they did in the old biblical times to show respect and friendship. He ended up washing my feet as well in front of all the journalists. You see, I like to make waves. We have a theatrical stage on the Ark that people can rent, but I don't allow religious propaganda. If they want to do something like that, I'll invite someone from an opposite viewpoint so that there can be a discussion. That is how we learn!
Where has the Ark been, and where is it going?
We have been open for five years. We started in the Netherlands. We went to Cologne, then Denmark. Now we are in Norway. We started in Arendal, Kristiansand and then Stavanger and now Bergen. After these three months we will go to Oslo and hopefully Sweden.
Do people react differently to your ark in different countries?
People are inherently different and I think that's great. I would hate it if we where all the same. I think the way the world is going we will all soon be all the same. The Danish seem frustrated, while to Norwegians are much more laid back. Germans and the Dutch are more volatile. I haven't been in Sweden that much, but they sort of seem like hillbillies in their American cars and with their bad music.
So, if shit hits the fan and there is another "divine" flood, could you save us with your ark?
Sadly, no. I don't like to use the word miracle, but it is a miracle that we got to Norway. The Ark has to be towed by a ship and can't handle more than two meter waves.
Oh. Thank you for your time!