Exhibitions: reviews and interviews
Thematic dossiers
Global Terroir
La belle revue in print
2022 – Moonlighting
2021 – Universal Zombie Nation
2020 – Educational Complex
2019 – With or without engagement
2018 – Passion/Work
2017 – Possible spaces ?
2016 – Grotesque
2015 – Citation — Replay

Translated by Anna Knight

“Keep your eyes a little wide and blank.
Show no interest or excitement.”1

by Liza Maignan & Fiona Vilmer

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“Sleep No More” is one of the titles that was rejected for the science-fiction film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956). An extra-terrestrial phenomenon identically replicates the bodies of the inhabitants while they sleep. Once their “original” bodies are stolen, then duplicated, they are reborn, devoid of human warmth. A paranoia of sleep is established; differentiating the being from the empty shell equates to exhausting oneself. Only the glimmer of a feeling, an emotion in the gaze, will be the clue enabling (by default) the dissimilarity to be perceived.

Do not sleep. Sleep no more.

Introduced into a survivalist logic, contrasting with its reparative function and the well-being it procures, sleep becomes a site of hidden depths. The paradoxical injunction to “widespread insomnia”,2 announces a state of standby, whether human or technological. Within a social, economic, and technological rhythm that favours the performance of a latent sleep-mode, the world conforms “with the existence of inanimate, inert, or timeless things”,3 absorbing the unproductivity of sleep within a different temporality. Author Jonathan Crary revokes this disciplinary somnolence, which effaces the last contours between the time of wakefulness and that of sleep, and defends a prescription of sleep, which he perceives as the final rampart against the capitalist machine. In this “shadowless world”,4 marked by a continuum between professional and private lives, in which everything is monetized, even social relations, only the irreducible moment of sleep represents a pocket of resistance, a temporality impossible to steal or control, but whose fragmentation is already in place.


Imagining a future without capitalism starts with dreams of sleep.5

In 2021, we invited the artists Camille Brée, Kim Farkas, Laura Gozlan, Christophe Lemaitre, and Pierre Paulin to undertake a collective exhibition entitled Sleep No More at Placement Produit (Aubervilliers). Sleep No More, without beds or sleepers. None of the artworks shown suggested the theme of sleep. They oscillated between a technological hermeticism and organic envelopes, contemporary body-snatcher figures. The standby mode revealed itself in some of the works, making their functional potential doubtful, which seemed to have already failed, dissolved by other fictions that reveal themselves after dark. For instance, Christophe Lemaitre presented permanently alert “clocks”, created with Kim Farkas, which analysed the shift from day to night, so as to better anticipate and announce it thanks to an indicator light, the only clue that it was in operation. Another work by Christophe Lemaitre ran on natural daylight and became autonomous by night, gleaning images deriving from a network of connected webcams. Rather than programmed obsolescence, it is an institutional obsolescence that dictates the movement of these machine-artworks, as could be said of Xavier Antin’s sculptures, *, , /, , {, and , presented at his solo exhibition The Weavers at the CAC Brétigny in 2020. Their settings are adjusted by artificial intelligence that has first been fed subject matter and, between themselves, they generate writing experiments, uncertain discussions, accessible during the “periods of wakefulness of the sculptures, which are put back to sleep by the members of the team once the art centre closed to the public.”6


Œuvres-ouvrières (“worker artworks”), they introduce the notion of work into the breach of sleep, which divides opinion. For some, time is squandered during sleep. For others, it’s a form of resistance. This “stopped clock” emerges in all of its ambiguity, like the border between two worlds, the manifestation of a class struggle opposing bourgeoisie and proletariat, life and death, verticality and horizontality, the sick (unproductive) body and the healthy (cost-effective) body.


“Poverty is not defined by laziness at work but by the impossible choice of one’s fatigue.”7


Artist Mladen Stilinović considers laziness as an inaction favourable to the act of creation in the form of self-portraits entitled Artist at work (1978). Lying in various positions, alternating phases of wakefulness and half-sleep, the artist responds to enduring and productive Western practices that the art system also imposes, leaving no room for laziness. Should a person happen to own one, the bed is political. Author Sylvain Menétrey suggests making the bed “a site of resistance rather than a symbol of renouncement.”8 The intimacy of its activities is itself subject to repressed, subconscious precepts, covered with a layer of social inequalities, classes, genders, bodies.


Bed had long fallen into disrepair, was considered communal and multifunctional, before being considered – by those who do not sleep – as the regenerative sanctuary of the working-class body. Would it accommodate dreams from emancipatory nights, the inverse of the disciplined day? “Archetypal furniture from the bourgeois-heterosexual domestic space,” as artist Victorien Soufflet describes it, on the other side of the tracks, in the repetitive uniformity of working-class apartment blocks, the bed is a nocturnal infrastructure of productivity: it is the site of reproduction of the labour force and the reproduction of this class.9 In KEUR, in 2020, in the exhibition Daybeds, day dream, they have nonreproductive desires,10 Soufflet – in association with Hugo Soucaze Caussade – fragmented her worn bed into three “sculptural daybeds”. The operation enabled her to escape her own precarity, using the production budget to buy a new bed and improve the economy of her sleep. The dissection of the conventional function of the bed, invited a new use for it: that of reading a publication, sharing thoughts.11 While the withdrawal of its envelope reveals its architecture, and confers a new public function to the bed, the presence of sheets that cover and protect it, conceal as much as they attest to our nocturnal secrets and our most intimate emotional states. As Tracey Emin affirms with her work My Bed (1998), revealing a post-break-up depression through the accumulation of objects (cigarette butts, condoms, bottles of alcohol, stained undergarments, etc.) spread across the foot of the artist’s bed, letting herself give in, hidden under the spattered shroud of her suffering. In 1991, a black-and-white photograph of an unmade bed contaminated billboards in the city of New York with a silent message. Untitled (billboard of an empty bed) by Felix González-Torres reveals, in the folds of the sheets, the imprint of two absent bodies: his own and that of his partner Ross, who died of AIDS. An intimate receptacle of the political body, this unmade bed exhibited in public space refers to the anti-homosexual laws of 1986 deeming that “gays and lesbians have no right to a private life, that the state could come into their homes, legislate and punish the way in which they loved.”12 


The intimacy of the bodies that inhabit beds is political. Owing to a certain expected normalcy, the intimacy of dysfunctional bodies does not enjoy the same treatment, once the bed is state-sanctioned, becoming public. Artist Benoît Piéron works with and on the illness that accompanies him and, depending on his health, on the horizontal plane of his beds. He created his first assemblages from recycled hospital sheets, displaying the presence of fluids emanating from sick bodies. Implicitly, it is death that is expressed in the stitches that hold these fragments of used sheets together, as with the heap of sheets piled in front of the bedrooms of sick children, these piles of doubts indicate death has been here or has been delayed. During a conference about his plush toys (emotional companions and psychopomp figures), Piéro evokes the hierarchy between the horizontality of the sick body and “the vertical authority of carers’ bodies”.13 A relationship that gives him a paradoxical feeling, at once of recognition and rejection in the face of the medical institution, the medical body and the tacit permissions to which his body is subjected and that are nevertheless required, particularly through the schedule of administrations of therapeutic substances, plunging his body into a state of constant stand-by.


“[...] poppies, poppies, poppies will put them to sleep.14


At the gates of sleep, physical or psychological exhaustion awaits. In this suspended state, feverish dreams assume psychedelic contours assimilated by our subconscious. This is the case of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, who sleeps through the tornado, which shifts from sepia to colour, from reality to its dreamed alternative version. It is also an exhausted Dorothy who collapses in a field of bewitched poppies, inside her own dream. And it is her sleep that generates an imaginary space, the receptacle of potential fictions. A mental decor distorting reality, its images, thoughts, friendships, and feelings, working towards a new, awestruck vision.

“I actually have no studio and I’ve never had one. My studio is the nighttime. Lying in the dark, thoughts are exposed and take shape,” explains Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster in her discussions with Enrique Vila-Matas.15 Since the 1990s and until recently,16 the artist created chambres (bedrooms). In this format of production and exhibition,17 beds are rectangular, round, or absent, atmospheres are more or less cosy, nursed by lighting in a monochrome tone. The occupants always seem to have deserted them. The artist’s mental projections create images, and colour the scenario of these “pet” bedrooms of literary and filmic references, artistic friendships, and generic objects, that give each of these bedrooms a temporality. As for mattress, pillows, duvets, subdued lighting, rugs, and beds, these are among the materials recurrently used by artist Anne Bourse. Under her hand, these ersatz of industrialised objects become surfaces invaded by drawings in psychedelic forms and with an enveloping chromatic range. In the text Strange Bedfellows, author Pascaline Morincome imagines the artist (or her alter ego), in her bed: “The exhibitions would stop, she’d draw and swim all day in a sea of fabrics and papers, without needing to know where she was going.”18 A fiction by the author in which the artist’s bed would be the extension of her studio, where she draws her designs “directly onto the underside of the duvet” and beneath which she’d welcome her friends. The day is over and now the luminous spectres of Camille Brée appear before us, discreet and reassuring, soliciting special attention. These dripping protrusions, from which electricity attempts to escape, present themselves like a magical phenomenon, rendering the arbitrary space that hosts them visible and palpable. These night-lights made by the artist or with her friends, create the shadow of a presence in order to get through the night.


“[…] this evening I have to get to bed early because tomorrow I’ll be completely exhausted again. This morning I’m quite tired, because it’s quite cold. This evening, I really have to go to bed early because I’m having trouble getting my ideas in order. This morning, now, I’m really, really tired.19

Sleep hasn’t disappeared, not entirely, yet. We constantly have to reinvent forms and sites of resilience to face a performance-based society. Compliant and accepting of our tiredness, indolence, and insomnia, in this infinite, universal and inalienable loop, the artists cited do not approach sleep as a theme of work or research. In their works, it appears implicitly and appears buried within the nooks and crannies of forms. A certain warmth remains to be detected therein. Until the last dream that haunts waking life.


  1. Don Siegel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956.
  2. Interview with Jonathan Crary by Anastasia Vécrin, Libération, 20 June 2014.
  3. Jonathan Crary, 24/7 Le capitalisme à l’assaut du sommeil (Paris: Éditions La Découverte/Poche, 2016), 19.
  4. Crary, 24/7, 19
  5. Crary, 24/7, 140.
  6. Céline Poulin, booklet from the exhibition The Weavers by Xavier Antin, CAC Brétigny, 2020.
  7. Jacques Rancière, La nuit des prolétaires : Archives du rêve ouvrier (Paris: Hachette, Pluriel Éditions, 1981), 20.
  8. Sylvain Menétrey, Bed Talk: Art and Politics of Lying Down, 2019–2020 [DOI in English: http://www.textezumnachdenken.com/lesungen, consulted on 2 March 2022
  9. “Envisageant l’hétérosexualité comme classe, selon les termes de Monique Wittig, dans La pensée straight, Monique Wittig, 1992”, Victorien Soufflet, from the exhibition text Daybeds, day dream, they have nonreproductive desires, KEUR, Paris, 2020
  10. Victorien Soufflet, in association with Hugo Soucaze Caussade, Daybeds, day dream, they have nonreproductive desires , KEUR, Paris, 24 October – 29 November 2020
  11. Victorien Soufflet, in association with Hugo Soucaze Caussade, Oh man give up on being a man man, with contributions from Hannah Baer, Olga Balema, Jean-Claude Moineau, Paul B. Preciado, Achim Reichert, He Valencia, Christina Wood, printed by request within the exhibition Daybeds, day dream, they have nonreproductive desires, KEUR, Paris, 24 October – 29 November 2020
  12. Felix González-Torres, conversation with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, for Museum in progress, Vienna [DOI : www.mip.at, 1994, consulted on 15 February 2022]
  13. La deuxième première fois (The Second First Time), an event organised by Carla Adra, with Benoit Piéron and Jules Lagrange, La Galerie, centre d’art contemporain de Noisy-le-Sec, 28 January 2022
  14. The Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming, 1939
  15. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Enrique Vila-Matas, Marienbad électrique, (Paris: Christian Bourgois Éditeur, 2015) 112
  16. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, exhibition La chambre humaine & la planète close, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, 3 September – 9 October 2021
  17. Patricia Falguières, « Couleurs-temps, les chambres » in Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (Paris: Coéditions Flammarion et le Centre national des arts plastiques, 2015), 166–169.
  18. Pascaline Morincome, Strange Bedfellows, text for the Anne Bourse exhibition Gens qui s’éloignent, Galerie Édouard-Manet, Gennevilliers, 27 January – 19 March 2022
  19. Pierrick Sorin, Les réveils, 1988

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