I Swear This Isn’t Creepy: Watch Tilda Swinton Sleep at the MoMA This Year

Ali’s Team Pick:

Tilda Swinton. Maybe you’ve heard of her? Vogue cover girl, David Bowie music video star, Academy Award winner and Golden Globe nominee. An androgynous heart-throb we wish was playing for our team. She’s also a performance artist and this year she will be sleeping in a box in the MoMA on random days at random times.

Tilda Swinton first performed “The Maybe” in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery in London with artist Cornelia Parker, and went on to perform it solo in Rome and Paris. Now it’s in New York City, but we never know when – the museum staff don’t even know when, according to the Gothamist: “Museum staff doesn’t know she’s coming until the day of, but she’s here today [yesterday]. She’ll be there the whole day. All that’s in the box is cushions and a water jug.”

We just know that at 6 random times throughout this year, Tilda Swinton will be sleeping in a glass box for eight hours with nothing but her glasses and a water jug in there for company. She will sleep for the entire 8 hours that the museum is open each performance, which makes my bladder cringe in sympathy.

I am full of a lot of whimsy, and I think doing this performance piece with a un-posted schedule makes it so special. Art mirrors life, and experiences cannot always be iCal-ed. It makes the viewer pause and be present in the unplanned. And it makes the shared experience of stumbling onto this Sleeping Beauty that much more unique – you, along with whatever visitors happened to be there that day, experienced this piece for which there was no planning and which will only happen six times. That’s community, what happens there. Accidental community. I hope we all stumble upon Sleeping Beauty together.

P.S… how much do we all want her outfit right now?

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. Oh, performance art….

    Well I really like that it is unplanned but I’m not sure what else to take from it. Wish I could see it in person. Maybe I will be lucky enough to see it while you are all up on the mountain. I’ll be on the East Coast for my brother’s graduation. I’d definitely love to look at her. How creepy and amazing.

  2. Gah! I remember reading about this piece in an extremely esoteric art theory class on the authenticity of art.

    I still wanna watch her sleep though.

    • That’s funny – I read about this too for an esoteric digital media class I absolutely loathed. But that was maybe 7 years ago, before I’d seen any of her other work. I’d go see it now.

  3. I so do want her clothes. I’ve always found it hard to believe she’s not playing for our team…at all.

  4. I didn’t go to art school so I can’t really pontificate on the, er, meaningfulness (or lack thereof) in performance art like this. Is the art merely in the “WTF TILDA”-ness of it? Do I need to throw around some bigger words?

    I say all this in jest and appreciation. Tilda can do what she wants. My creeper ass would be right there watching if I had the chance.

  5. Art is obviously a billion different things, and the label of “performance art,” encapsulates many of its own “things.” She’s already accomplishing what I think her goal or non-goal is. The reactions of the people. I suppose you could say it’s interactive, mentally (and visually), but not physically (on the viewers end). From the comments I read about people’s reactions, the variety of them said a lot. The bathroom thing was a big issue obviously, but the big thing is that people are reacting, and to me that’s always good. I’ve been to many art galleries, and being an artist myself, do my best to appreciate everything in them that I can. That isn’t the case for everyone though. I’ve been to the Met many times where people just brush through quickly to find the giant pyramid, or the pollock exhibit, or to take a picture with themselves in front of a Picasso (the met only has a small handful if even that, [side note only 1 dali too womp]).

    There’s a lot that goes unnoticed, and that’s okay. The expierence of art is different for everyone, and that’s why I like what she’s doing. In 20 years am I going to value it as much as some of my favorite Dali’s, dada’s, Renaissance, etc pieces? Likely not, but I will still value it. It’s always good to make people question, and by not having an artist’s statement for this piece, that is exactly what people are doing. :)

    • I feel like it would get pretty boring if she weren’t. But maybe she’s in there having some sort of transformational experience?

  6. My roommate and his boyfriend saw this over the weekend and thought that it was an embalmed body. They didn’t realize who this was until I read the article and told him, lol.

  7. ‘I am full of a lot of whimsy’ – phrases just like this one are part of the many reasons I love Autostraddle.

    • I would just like to add, a few months later, that that phrase is now an established part of my vocabulary.

  8. She probably needed the cash.. Morgages don’t pay themselves. It’s unplanned because when she needs some $ she just goes and sleeps somewhere. I find it stupid that she does it in the name of “art” though when in reality she should have placed a hat in front of it for loose change.

  9. I’ve often said I would watch certain particularly awesome artists do just about anything, like read the phone book, or do their taxes. I will now add “Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box” to that list. No shame.

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