Cornelia Parker in collaboration with Tilda Swinton - The Maybe (1995)
“‘Please come and go quietly,’ reads the sign on the wall of the Serpentine Gallery and, for once, visitors seem to be taking notice. Their light tread, though, is not in deference to authority, but out of respect for the person whose slight form exerts such an extraordinary power over this room and forms the centrepiece of The Maybe.
More a lying-in-state than a performance piece, as an experience it is, at first, not dissimilar to visiting Lenin’s tomb. The difference, of course, is that the viewers have come more out of curiosity than reverence, and the object is not dead, only sleeping.
Moving up to the glass, seeing the gentle rise and fall of her body, we feel a sense of having being conned into voyeurism. Rather than becoming Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, Tilda is transformed into a museum exhibit, a specimen, and she’s not alone. Her new context is confirmed by the contents of the glass cabinets that fill the gallery’s three other rooms: Napoleon’s rosary, Turner’s watercolour box, Charles Dickens’s last pen, Robert Maxwell’s shoe lasts, one of Churchill’s half-smoked cigars, the manuscript of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting.”