Tilda Swinton and The Box
We brought our three kids to the Museum of Modern Art last Saturday. They always complain about how we do nothing in Maine except ski and snowboard in the winter and hike, backpack, and swim in the summer. So, we were in New York and we stopped by MoMA.
Before we even got to the right floor, there was a cluster of people in the lobby two-deep surrounding a plexiglas box on legs so the mannequin inside was easy to view. The figure wore khaki pants, canvas sneakers, and a light blue oxford shirt. The mannequin had short hair. As I circled the box, someone said they saw it breath. I looked closely and yes, it was alive, like the “Hunger Artist” in the Kafka story.
I went to look at the plate. It said that the Academy Award winning actress, Tilda Swinton, was inside. I watched people watching her not watch them. I noted how uncomfortable people looked. Clearly, the 2007 top ten best dressed woman in the world provoked visceral responses from these art lovers. They looked, she slept, and the piece haunted me days later.
I kept telling people about it as if to understand the experience better. The piece asked us to understand our relationship with art, with celebrity, with expectation, the object versus the observer.
Swinton will show up without the MoMA staff knowing on random days. They say the box might be moved almost anywhere in MoMA. She stays all day. All day. At the very least, it makes you think.