The Maybe, an exhibition made in collaboration with the actress Tilda Swinton (b. 1960) in 1995 (London, Serpentine Gal.) focused on the impressions that one has when confronted with the belongings of famous people. Parker selected curiosities from various museums, including Turner’s watercolour box, Queen Victoria’s stockings and Sigmund Freud’s blanket, in order to elicit free associations from the beholder. Swinton was herself on display, asleep in another glass case. Parker’s aim was not merely to question the power of relics, but also to create a mental route that triggers unexpected associations.
Eighteen-ish years later, Tilda Swinton has revived “The Maybe”, except this time, it’s an individual work and it’s credited to her alone.
Tilda Swinton, in a vitrine, with a pair of spectacles and a carafe of water, pretending to be asleep. And in fitful slumber, if the images are to be believed. Swinton will show up some six times over the course of the year (I think) and sleep throughout the day in the glass box, which will be placed at different locations in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The things people have to do for their art.
It’s apparently taken seven years to get this “project” to the MoMA. This is the latest triumph for Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach, who organised Marina Abramovic’s The Artist Is Present and is quite a champion of performance art. The point of the piece is “uncertainty”, said someone from the MoMA in some article about “The Maybe”, while clarifying that the actress only tells the museum on the day of her appearance that she’ll be showing up.
You could compare Swinton’s “The Maybe” to the Parker-Swinton joint effort. You could also possibly think of this piece in the context of Tracy Emin’s bed. You may be reminded of St. Francis Xavier and his supposedly incorruptible body (which has been cut into parts to display in various religious spots) in its glass casket in Goa. If you’re so inclined, you might wonder what, if anything, is Swinton being paid for showing up and pretending to be asleep in these cash-strapped times. Those less arty-fartily inclined, you might recall the glass coffin in which Snow White’s dead body was kept or the Grimm brothers’ story titled “The Glass Coffin” or be reminded of the oxygen chamber in which Michael Jackson was rumoured to have slept/lived in an effort to look younger (or something like that). Me, I’d like to hand it over to the wonderful Vivian Leigh.
EDITED TO ADD:
When I wrote that Swinton performed “The Maybe” as part of Parker’s show, I didn’t mean that Swinton’s stolen the idea or something. It was just done in collaboration with Parker.