While They Sleep
As bodies, we, throughout history, have sustained an obsession with and desire for difference, whether it be in biblical fables or seen throughout art history. Between dead and alive, male and female, heroic and nefarious, our bodies are posed as oppositional, as that which is different from everything else. The “Power of Women topos”of the Medieval era tells us there is something comical and/or moralising in allowing a woman to bridge that difference, namely to actively pursue the role of a man. Judith decapitates Holofernes with a sword; Jael takes a hammer and chisel to Sisera’s head; Phyllis rides Aristotle; Delilah slashes Samson’s source of heroic strength; Lucretia seduces and humiliates Virgil; Tomyris requests and is granted the head of Cyrus. Reflecting on some of these religious myths of male and female relationships, While they Sleep meditates on the moments women assume power, become the active and heroic bodies, while their male counterparts are weighed by a groggy state of unconsciousness. The dark becomes a liberating interval of reversal: he sleeps, she acts. It is his mass that emphasises her action. Juxtaposing the visual weight of form and the implicational weight of text, Judith, Jael, and Delilah retell the myths of their namesakes, bringing to the light the freedom cries of the dark.