You didn't have to be under the age of 12 to have your chance to sleep overnight in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall this past weekend, you just needed a sleeping bag, £18 and an appreciation for repetition.
As part of The Long Weekend 2007 the museum turned Sunday into Monday with an 18 hour screening of Andy Warhol's first film, "Sleep". The 5 1/2 hour feature depicting poet John Giorno sleeping was looped to span the duration of the musical piece that inspired it, John Cage's 1963 performance of Erik Satie's "Vexations". Satie's composition was played live by several pianists in shifts, including Joshua Rifkin, who participated in the legendary Cage rendition.
Although back in the day Mr. Warhol listened to the entire 18 hours, we were sadly unable to follow suit, as we wanted to be well-rested enough to enjoy the full weekend of fantastic events the organisers had programmed. Visiting the performance in the early afternoon hours on Monday, however, still provided a chance to see how this public space had become private. Like the voyeuristic experience of watching Giorno dream on screen, approaching an attendee's sleeping bag felt a bit like sneaking into a stranger's bedroom.
When we stumbled into the quarters of Adam Holofcener and Will Krieger (pictured above), we were looking for a photo and some conversation. Apparently someone earlier that morning was also looking for a photo but no conversation, as they walked right up and snapped the lens without asking permission. Either that means people are rapidly continuing to get ruder and weirder or the film had so thoroughly confused public-private boundaries that common courtesy no longer mattered to the trespassing photographer.
By the time we visited, the museum was bustling and Turbine Hall was especially hectic. According to Adam and Will, the atmosphere was far more peaceful overnight, with only 20 - 30 people remaining for the long haul. The arrival of the morning's first new guests at first felt like an invasion of their space, they noted. What gave these people the right to just walk right in? Oh, yeah...
That's the power of "Sleep" and the hypnotic nature of "Vexations", however, to not only distort time, but also warp space. Each minute that passed in Giorno's cinematic shadow felt at times like only a few seconds and at others closer to an hour or two. Regardless of time's changing pace, space slipped away constantly as the outside world became increasingly more mythical. Certainly this was the only film ever made and no other music was ever composed. Enough time spent with these sights and sounds and everything would cease to exist.
The weather being what it was, lounging around a warm and dry Tate Modern for the better part of the day - or better yet for the entire weekend - seemed to us like a perfect way to spend a rainy bank holiday. We can only hope for a stronger downpour next year.
Image of Adam Holofcener and Will Krieger taken from the author's Flickr photostream.