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If you thought Spain’s Eskimo Jesus was the only controversial art story happening these days, think again: artist Taras Polataiko has taken it upon himself to realize the fairy tale classic Sleeping Beauty at the National Art Museum of Ukraine. The gist of the performance is: Polataiko dresses “beauties” who have volunteered for the part in white gowns and makeup. They lie sleeping on a bed in the museum for two hours each day. Anyone who visits the exhibition may kiss a beauty, and if she opens her eyes while being kissed, the two must marry each other.

Yes, you read that right. Both the performers and the viewers are required to sign contracts saying that they will marry if the woman opens her eyes while the kiss is happening. Everyone involved must be at least 18 years old and unmarried.

Polataiko seems to think he’s doing these women a real favor:  “I hope they come, so it will be more interesting for the beauties,” he tells the Telegraph in the video embedded above. The paper also spoke to one of the women participating, who told an interviewer:

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?

Where do to even begin?! The project perpetuates useless, even dangerous, heteronormative myths, namely that women need men to come find them, to wake them and save them; and that only men and women belong together, romantically. This isn’t art that engages with and challenges popular tropes; it simply reinforces them. If Polataiko had taken the Sleeping Beauty idea and twisted it — so that men slept while waiting for women to kiss them, or women slept while waiting for other women — that would be something worth seeing.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

17 replies on “Artist Brings “Sleeping Beauty” to Life”

  1. Does it perpetuate the heteronormative myth more dangerously than any single issue of Cosmo? The performance seems pretty benign by comparison, although I agree it’d be much more interesting with roles reversed.

    1. I agree that Cosmo creates the same problem, but I don’t think that means it’s not worth discussing this project, too.

      1. I see the power dynamic in her favor. More like The Bachelorette. Less like Sleeping Beauty. No?

        1. Is “her” the sleeping beauty here? I don’t really see what power she has, having to keep her eyes closed and lie around waiting to be kissed…?

          1. Yes. She created the terms and conditions. She chooses the mate. The men are just waiting in line with their fingers crossed, smelling like Axe body spray.

          2. Well actually, Taras created the terms and conditions. And she chooses with her eyes closed, which to me isn’t so much of an empowering way to choose.

  2. “so that men slept while waiting for women to kiss them, or women slept while waiting for other women”

    or if men slept while waiting for other men who were too distracted to bother because they were parusing scruff EVEN THO THEY WERE ALL IN THE SAME BAR

  3. How does it perpetuate it vs bringing discussion of it? exactly? I think that my creating something akin to it in a physical space, it makes it all the more ridiculous.

    1. Taras, I apologize for the misrepresentation—since I haven’t seen the project myself, I was basing a lot of my judgement on the media representation, which presents it very much as men coming to kiss women. It’s nice to hear that it’s open to anyone, although as I understand it, gay marriage isn’t legal in Ukraine. I’m not sure how two women would navigate that—which would, indeed, raise some interesting questions if it happened.

  4. Ok, to make it crystally clear:

    To kiss, you have to be over 18 and single. It applies to both men and women.

    Married people and people who have no intention of kissing the Beauty sign a statement that they can come in and observe, but can’t kiss. Children can come in too, but can’t kiss if they’re under 18. Every person who intends to kiss signs the CONTRACT. That includes single men over 18 a
    nd single women over 18.

    The show is not completely over if the Beauty opens her eyes. Only her personal sleep ends. After that I project the video recording of her sleep for the rest of her 3 days. And then the next Beauty starts sleeping.

    Also, we’re having a huge closing party Sept 9 at 17:00 at the National Museum of Ukraine.

    I’m buying lots of red wine (Museum has no money). But it would help if you brought some wine with you.
    See you ))))

  5. I bet you feel silly now that it was a woman’s kiss that woke up one of the sleeping beauties. Still offensively heteronormative?

    1. Nope, I don’t feel silly. I still think the project reinforces a heteronormative view of the passive female who waits for love to come to her. But I AM glad it got more interesting.

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