SLEEP OF REASON
Through a series of tableaux vivants, “Sleep of Reason” borrowed the narratives in Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos to examine the theatrical/performance implications of abuse as depicted in the Abu Ghraib photographs. Staged still scenes were briefly illuminated with light cutting through longer periods of silhouetted darkness. Using masks, sculpture, and allegory, “Sleep of Reason” suggested the presence of a recurrent darkness beneath the rational and enlightened society of today.
The title “Sleep of Reason” refers to Goya’s most well-known print “The Sleep of Reason Produced Monsters” from Los Caprichos, a series of satirical and grotesque critiques of the follies, superstitions, and ignorance of society. The general interpretation of the title of this piece is a warning that when Reason is allowed to sleep, irrationality depicted as coming in the form of bats, owls, and monstrous beasts, is allowed to escape from the depths of man’s unconscious. In the wake of the Abu Ghraib photographs and the abuses they depict, it seems very clear that even in our rational Western society, a darkness pervades. It was shocking to see the evidence of psychological and physical torture presented in such a theatrical manner. The soldiers positioned the prisoners like hunting trophies or props creating iconographic and grotesque tableaux vivants of the very tortures they were inflicting.
One could blame the abuses on a “few bad apples” in the military, or perhaps further up the chain of command to the Bush Six-the lawyers who came up with the legal framework justifying torture, and still others might look to 9/11 as justification for our actions, but I think America’s sleep of reason extends much further. To me, the sleep of reason and darkness that manifests itself in our rational society also seems clear when one looks at the suspension of the law and liberties with this constant “state of exception.” This “state of exception,” which sadly has continued with the Obama administration, has allowed us to unlawfully aggressively invade foreign countries and justify the detention, torture and killing of civilians with the promise that this will all make America safe. Our War on Terror is a shadowed never-ending war without borders and without even a clear enemy.