Sleep of Reason

My project, Sleep of Reason, incorporated many of the ideas I’ve used in sculptural works and transferred them from their static, synchronic states into a more politicized narrative. Through a series of tableaux vivants, Sleep of Reason borrowed poses, characters, and narratives in Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos to examine the theatrical/performance implications of abuse as depicted in the Abu Ghraib photographs. Staged still scenes were briefly illuminated with light cutting through longer periods of darkness. Using masks, sculpture, and allegory, Sleep of Reason suggested the presence of a recurrent darkness beneath the rational and enlightened society of today.

The title Sleep of Reason refers to Goya’s most well known print The Sleep of Reason Produced Monsters from Los Caprichios, a series of satirical and grotesque critiques of the follies, superstitions, and ignorance of society. The general interpretation of the title of this piece is a warning that when Reason is allowed to sleep, irrationality depicted as coming in the form of bats, owls, and monstrous beasts, is allowed to escape from the depths of man’s unconscious. In the wake of the Abu Ghriab photographs and the abuses they depict, it seems very clear that even in our rational Western society, a darkness pervades. During the performance, the silence and slowness of the tableau vivant served to implicate the audience and encouraged them to reflect on the image—the actors were still/sculptural in each scene creating a series of separate images like the photographs, but by their small movements of breathing and struggling to hold the pose throughout, created a tension and, at times, a sympathy.

With funds from The Puffin Foundation, I was able to research and develop the costumes and sets for Sleep of Reason. In tandem with my performance, I was invited to The Women’s Studio Workshop to publish a book, which translated the drawings I made in response to my performance into silkscreens.

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