Tilda Swinton - The Maybe (2013)
"A gentle refusal of explanation and the element of surprise is integral to the piece. There is no schedule for the random appearances, no artist’s or museum statement besides the simple label on the wall nearby.
It is an open question, a proposal, a treasure hunt. The title is perhaps the main clue. Yet if we are to be investigators in this mystery and look hard enough we may find some other leads.
The iconic image of Swinton in the glass case has come to represent a signature moment in the exploration of the links between the ‘live’ (performance art) and the ‘death’ of the gallery space (its tendency to freeze in time and space that which is displayed there).
Later, an email from Swinton…provides some further insight. ‘I asked myself to propose a gesture, a hybrid between that essence which I value most in live performance – namely, that kinetic experience of human beings all (wholly – as in, every part of them) present together in the same space at the same time and in the thrall of time and the unexpected – with that essence which I value most in cinematic performance – namely, the possibility of the scrutiny by the viewer of the unwatched who cannot watch back.[…]’
Swinton cites further inspirations. Among them are powerful childhood memories of pretending to be asleep, the archetypal image of the sleeping woman in myths and fairy tales, a sensitivity to the predicament of countless homeless people who seem to be treated by society as if, sleeping rough, they were sealed away – invisible – behind glass and the dominance of the dead in glass boxes displayed for the glory of religion and art – exemplified by both Christian and Communist reliquaries but also Damien Hirst’s pickled carcasses.
Swinton presents a present, living human being alongside these images of passivity, but as both subject and object – and author/artist. The most commonly asked question by spectators of The Maybe – now, as eighteen years ago – is ‘Is it real?’”