MuseumMinute

Sleeping Beauties: Kiss & Marriage?

Everyone wants to meet prince charming, right? Well, what if you met him in a museum? And by met I mean he kisses you and you are then contractually obligated to marry him. Does the fairy tale still sound so romantic?

(Photo: National Art Museum of Ukraine)

A performance art installation, created by Ukrainian-Canadian artist Taras Polataiko, at the National Art Museum of Ukraine offers such an experience. Visitors enter the exhibition, titled Sleeping Beauties, and see a beautiful Ukrainian woman, dressed in a white satin gown, sleeping on an elevated bed in the exhibit space for a couple of hours each day. In order to “participate” in the installation the potential princes (unmarried, 18+) are required to sign a contract that states they will marry the sleeping beauty if she opens her eyes when they kiss.

The Beauties participating in the exhibition have signed a contract reflecting the same agreement. Really?

Yes, really.

One of the Beauties has been quoted saying, “If it’s my true love, I will feel it on an intuitive level. Secondly, if I don’t feel it, I won’t open my eyes. Anything can happen in life. And suddenly it’s fate. What if it’s the only way I’ll meet my soul mate?”

What if, indeed…

The Sleeping Beauties press release states:

The tension of the performance is in the seductiveness and fear of the ultimate moment. The viewer will have to think twice before kissing the Beauty. The Beauty will have to decide if the ultimate moment has come or not. The show will end the moment the Beauty opens her eyes.

Hmmm. Marriage via a performance art installation?

The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture tried to shut down the show, unsuccessfully. Polataiko did what any aggrieved citizen in the digital age would do, he took to his Facebook page, writing, “The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture is shutting down my “Sleeping Beauty” performance one day before the opening. I’ve worked on this piece for two years. No clear explanations why. Nazi/Soviet style of censorship. I’m asking the international art community for help.”

Nataliia Mykhailova, a public relations representative at the museum, later confirmed the Ministry of Culture’s intervention, stating in an email to the Huffington Post: “We really had some difficulties, but now it is all arranged and the exhibition is working as planned.”

The exhibit has been called insane and a weirdo magnet. Is it? Performance art pushes the envelope. It is often meant to be immersive, uncomfortably real, and human. Performance artists have given birth, been shot at and have destroyed personal possessions in galleries (with an audience present). Are there any boundaries?

If a Beauty “awakes” what are the repercussions if she and the potential prince do not wed? In the age of Bachelor/Bachelorette entertainment and Kardashian nuptials would it simply become a 15-minutes-of-fame followed by a public break-up experience, extending the 15 minutes for the participants (and the artist)?

To date, none of the Beauties have opened their eyes. The exhibition began August 22 and runs through September 9, 2012.

So, what do you think of the installation? Does it go too far? What can you or your museum learn from it? Do you know anyone who would kiss the Beauty? Would you?

One thought on “Sleeping Beauties: Kiss & Marriage?

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