The Bed Show Exhibit Helps Us Dream On

The Bed Show

Now I lay me down to nap, I pray my futon won’t collapse.
If the bed should sag whilst I do snore, I pray to Goddess I’ll find the floor…

To sleep, per chance to dream. Perhaps no other activity other than eating is as universal as the need to sleep. But while all humans do it, culturally, we have different ideas, attitudes, and artifacts about what constitutes the best way to sleep. Dream On: Beds from Asia to Europe, a far-reaching and innovative exhibition from the Museum of International Folk Art, offers a look at both the material and philosophical cultural differences about sleep, in an environment that might best be described as just dreamy.

Staged in the Neutrogena Wing of the Museum, this 4,000 square foot exhibition will focus on beds from Asia & Europe found in both the Museum’s own collections and on loan from other museums and private individuals. Breaking down the subject of sleep-styles into just three common denominators, the exhibit covers half the world’s approaches to one of the most essential human activities.

“When we look around the world, we see tremendous variations in the actual manner of sleeping,” said Joyce Ice, MOIFA’s director. “Given the amount of space we had to present a show of this size, as well as what artifacts were available to us, we settled on Asia to Europe because that range gave us gave us an extraordinary amount of variety.”

Dream On explores sleeping as a cultural activity and beds as objects that embody cultural mores. The exhibition will be presented in a “dream-like” fashion, featuring seventy examples of furniture, pillows, and bedding from around the world. Dream On curators Annie Carlano and Bobbie Sumberg have made an in-depth inquiry into the three predominant modes of sleep and have arrange their artifacts accordingly in an environment that will feature the gentle recorded sounds of real sleeping people.

The first section, “Sleeping Low,” features works from Japan and islands of the Pacific Rim, including a tatami, kimono-shaped quilts, Chinese head rests, woven rattan mats from Borneo, and embroidered silk sleeping cloths from Southeast Asia. Visitors will then move on to “Sleeping on the Move,” with works from Central Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, featuring nomadic piled bedding from Turkey and Uzbekistan. Finally, “Sleeping High,” with works from Asia and Europe, features the bed as furniture, offering the familiar bed-above-the-floor that most of us take for granted as “a proper bed.

Accompanying the exhibit will be a lavishly illustrated book that will work in tandem to convey the primal nature of the bed in our lives, published by the University of Washington and available in the spring of 2006. With playful chapter heads like “Sleeping Around,” (an introduction), “Sleeping Small,” (about children’s beds) and “Sleeping Forever…Ever” (about coffins, the book clearly has a broader focus than the exhibition, perhaps illustrating that there’s a lot more to sleep than just dreaming. Indeed, the book discusses the evolution of the bed in the Ancient World, different cultural attitudes toward sleeping, and explores contemporary design solutions to beds and bedding. Attitudes and emotions about comfort, repose, intimacy, and the fertile world of dreams are explored throughout the text.

While sleep is a serious topic, the curators have taken a dreamy approach to the presentation of the issues involved, and are asking that attendees to the opening come in their pajamas. DJs, (who’ll play trance and downtempo, I suppose) will be performing at the event. Curators have also requested that opening-revelers bring along a stuffed animal, size appropriately for a child to sleep with. All furry creatures will be donated to the Esperanza Women’s Shelter after the evening’s festivities.

Dream On: Beds from Asia to Europe looks like a real sleeper hit – make sure you set your alarm for this one.


What – Dream On: Beds from Asia to Europe
When – Friday, December 16, 2005 from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Where – @MOIFA, The Museum of International Folk Art, located on Museum Hill on Camino Lejo, off Old Santa Fe Trail.
Cost: $FREE
Special Preparations: The curators request that people dressed in their pajamas, along with a kid-friendly stuffed animal.

September 30th, 2005 by