Deborah & Richard Cornell:
The Sleep of Reason, a Cautionary Tale
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Organized by the Samek Art Gallery in collaboration wtih the Bucknell Department of Music
Installation by Deborah Cornell; Audio by Richard Cornell
August 25 – October 3, 2010
The Sleep of Reason: A Cautionary Tale suggests the dangers of the journey into the little known territory of genetics, and with the recent human capacity to manipulate nature on the cellular level. The cautions refer to our potential for changing the foundation of the natural world by the "unraveling" of DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid, the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms and its subsequent genetic anomalies.
In the installation The Sleep of Reason: A Cautionary Tale, a large, boat-like vessel is filled with elegant natural forms including fish, reptiles, the human hand, fauna, and scientific instruments in a bed of gravel. Surrounding the sculpture are mysterious composite images depicting similar subjects, upon which texts from sources as varied as novelist Umberto Ecco, anthropologist David Harvey, IBM, New York Time science writer Natalie Angier, and poet William Butler Yeats, float over and reflect upon the images.
Sound for the audio was gathered from field and studio recordings and filtered to reveal aspects beyond the natural scope of the human ear. Sources include crickets, the tree frog (Hyla versicolor), andthe echo location signals of the silverhaired bat (Pipistrella).
The audio fills the Project Room and encircles the images and forms, which are bathed in discomforting light, to create a contemplative and sensorial experience.
The title is from The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, an etching by Francisco de Goya, from Los Caprichos of 1797-99. In it, strange, monstrous forms appear out of nowhere, as the dreamer's "reason" is suspended in sleep.