Sleep in with the Sleepers

Original speed, time to inflate and deflate approximately 11′



The title of the sculpture ‘Sleep in with the Sleepers’ comes from the song ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forward’ by Billy Brag from 1988. The lines run as follows: ‘You can be active with the activists. Or sleep in with the sleepers. While you’re waiting for the great leap forward.’

The artwork depicts a sleeper who holds his hands by his face like a pillow, and his legs are in a marching position. The man carries a mattress with him, which is slowly and softly inflated and deflated. Packages of refined sugar are tied to him and the mattress with ropes; when the mattress is deflated, it suffocates the man.

The artist criticizes ‘western mankind’ here, a group he belongs to himself.

About 2500 years ago, Heraclitus wrote: ‘My fellow men do not know what they do when awake, just as sleepers are unaware of what they do. Sleepers are workers, contributors to what happens in the world (1).

It is a pity we seem to learn so little. Hunger for money and power, self-interest… they remain dominant factors in human behaviour. As long as these factors do not hurt us physically or financially, we just continue on – or we are only too happy to make use of them ourselves.

In large parts of the world ‘western, refined man’ is no longer the great role model we want to be or that we think we are. A definition of ‘refined’ is: so smartly thought up or done that it is not immediately understandable. Synonyms of the Dutch word ‘geraffineerd’ are: cunning, sly, dodgy, but also artistic and refined (2).

The symbolic packages of refined sugar contain so called quick sugars. They immediately give us an energy boost, with a considerable dip afterwards. The perfect product to put us to sleep, to stifle us, time and time again. As soon as we recover consciousness, we want more of the same, in a constantly repeated cycle.

Let this sleeper be a motivating support for all the citizens who are awake and activist, who take steps, not matter how small, and who keep the sleepers awake.

Within the sculptural transformation data the artist looked for similar colours for the sculpture and the mattress cover. In this way the work is one whole, in which a change of form takes place.

Finally one can see that the human figure is fragmented. The opinion column ‘Gevaren van de gefragmenteerde mens’ by psychiatrist Esther van Fenema in De Volkskrant explains perfectly why the artist chose to depict the figure that way.



(1) Herakleitos: Alles stroomt. Paul Claes, Athenaeum, Polak & Van Gennep, Amsterdam, 2014.