Unmade bed inspires intimate exhibition

What happens between the sheets can be very taboo but Raglan conceptual and confessional artist Élisabeth Denis tells the tale about the relationship people have with their bed in her exhibition Geodynamic Slumbers.

At the Raglan Old School Arts Centre, Élisabeth weaves together the strands of six couple’s bedtime antics for one night only on Saturday 7 August, 6-9pm.

Through the clever intertwining of photographic images of six couples’ beds, just as they left them in the morning, and interviews conducted by Élisabeth just as they have woken, the exhibition explores the intimate and sometimes ordinary activities each couple undertakes as they take to their beds.

“The idea came when I woke up one morning and looked at my partner’s and my bed. I could see that the duvet was all tossed on my side – I’m the duvet stealer. His pillow was lower than mine – he likes to sleep with his feet dangling off the bed.  Coffee and ink stains on the sheets – we drink coffee in bed every morning and I sleep with a pen under my pillow to be ready to write at any opportune moment. At that instant, I realised that the creases in our sheets were telling the story of us. Then I started wondering what other people’s beds would look like,” she says.
With the seed planted, Élisabeth then convinced six local couples to leave their beds undone and visited them right after they got up. The whole interview and photography process took her two months to complete.

“We talked about sleepless nights, being sick in bed, heavy hearts that are breaking but also trying to love again, waking up in togetherness, sex, books that were read, picking sides, sweet caresses and the things that happen in the intimacy of sharing a bed with somebody.” 

Élisabeth then digitally manipulated the photographs and incorporated interview excerpts in the creases of the couple’s bed. 

Printed on aluminium sheets, the images will be displayed at the Old School gallery alongside a bed and evocative soundtrack playing in the background.

“The visitors will arrive at a set up that looks like a bedroom and they will be invited to lay on the bed, for them too, to leave movements in the sheets. I will take a picture of each participant to portray the passing of everyone who came to the exhibition,” she says.

A French Canadian, Élisabeth has been living in Aotearoa for the past four years and has worked at local gallery The Monster Company, at the Old School and has transformed the Old School into an into an interactive art space with her Guerrilla Art Jams.

More recently she has been helping manage events for Banished Music such as the recent Chills concert at the Raglan Town Hall.

Geodynamic Slumbers is on at the Raglan Old School Arts Centre on Saturday 7 August, 6-9pm.