Tilda Swinton sleeps in a box: Is this (still) art?

Tilda Swinton (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters)
Tilda Swinton (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters)

Tilda Swinton climbed into a glass box at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art Saturday and went to sleep — a bit of performance art entitled “The Maybe,” which quickly drew a crowd. MoMA officials told AP the Oscar winner will repeat the act about a half dozen times through the year but with no pre-announced schedule. (See photos of Swinton’s glass-box act, crowd reaction, at Gothamist)

Is this art? Or maybe we should ask: Is this still art? It seemed edgy when Swinton first performed the piece in 1995, telling the Guardian that it was her exploration of “stillness and human faces that are absolutely expressionless.” (The critics were mixed, according to the Independent, ranging from the Sunday Telegraph’s assessment of “a highly entertaining reflection on the nature of dreams and dreaming and the way we project our thoughts onto objects” to the Evening Standard’s “feeble and utterly self-indulgent.”) Since then, though, the person-in-box thing has been kind of done, hasn’t it? L.A.’s Standard Hotel employs models to lounge in a glass box in its lobby; in 2003, stunt-magician David Blaine spent 44 days in glass box suspended over London. But if anyone can make it fresh, it’s Swinton. If only we knew when she would show up.

Updated, Monday 4 p.m.: Oh good! Apparently someone is keeping track of this, at the IsTildaSwintonSleepingInaBox site — and indeed, she was sleeping on display again Monday. People.com reports that Sarah Jessica Parker went to see her, leading to the specter of everyone gawking at Sarah Jessica Parker gawking at Tilda Swinton sleeping.

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