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Corcoran exhibit is simple but difficult: An artist, asleep

July 27, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • This photo shows artist Chajana denHarder at the Corcoran Gallery of Art taking a test nap in her exhibit, "Sleep."
This photo shows artist Chajana denHarder at the Corcoran Gallery of Art… (Tony Wilson )

WASHINGTON -- The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art & Design will feature an unusual exhibit Saturday: Chajana denHarder sleeping, or attempting to sleep, all day.

The exhibit, named "Sleep," is part of a series of performances, exhibitions and installations organized by the gallery and Washington Project for the Arts on a glass bridge above the entrance to the museum across from the White House.

The artist will be on the bridge for seven hours without food, drink, blanket or pillow.

"The simplicity of the work belies the difficulty of its execution. 'Sleep’ requires the artist to let herself be seen in ways she will not have control over, to make herself vulnerable to the public’s gaze, and to perform a typically private ritual in a public space,’’ the organizers said in a  news release. "Lying in the Performance Bridge, the artist will be isolated from, but clearly visible to, museum visitors and passersby on the street, occupying a space between the museum and the outside world.’’   

The 30-year-old Washington, D.C., artist, who did an hourlong test "Nap’’ at the Corcoran earlier this week, said that she initially conceived of the "piece" in response to "an objective shared by a lot of performance art: drawing as much attention as possible and trying to attract people to museums and exhibitions.’’

But she decided, "I would do the opposite.  I would stop moving and just lay down.’’

"I wanted to try and be completely myself in this space that is between the institution and world, art world and real world … and the best way to be yourself completely is to go to sleep.’’

Sarah Durkee, the gallery’s vice president of public education, said the museum strives to develop programming that is "illuminating, inspiring, creative, eye-opening, sometimes surprising, and that makes our audiences think about their space, their world, or even themselves, in new ways.’’ 

Indeed. Soon to come: an artist who will marry — and then divorce — seven suitors over seven hours, engaging in the "full spectacle of marriage (cake, dancing, Champagne toasts) and the pain of divorce (papers will be signed)," said the gallery’s Rachel Cothran.  

Another exhibit will feature live canaries.

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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