“Devoting countless hours to learning books by heart seems to contradict every principle governing what we understand by human effort from modernity. Whether it be an artistic or life experience, it seems an obvious and unjustifiable waste of time. It creates nothing new, no new idea that changes or improves the state of things, no new image that helps us to comprehend our problems".
“Learning by heart is perhaps the best possible reading of a book, by a reader who is moved and captivated, willing to learn the text in such a way that it becomes an integral part of her living organism”.
Victoria Pérez Royo
“Underground Authorships. Text, Body and Life in Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine” in Tropelías. A journal on the Theory of Literature and Comparative Literature (2), 2017
For the second year, the Museo Reina Sofía welcomes Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine by choreographer Mette Edvardsen, a project where people from different countries memorise books of their choice. Together, they form a library collection of “living books” which, at stipulated times, are available to the public in the form of individual encounters from which to recite what has been learned to a visitor.
Time has fallen asleep… focuses on the importance of memory and word of mouth, on producing conditions of encounter between people, on proximity, intimacy and care, by dint of a liking for highly divergent books: novels, essays, poetry, prose. The title comes from a phrase that appears in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, which is set in a future society where books are forbidden, causing a community of people to go underground to learn the last existing books with a view to conserving them. Thus, in this activity learning by heart is done as an ongoing practice in time. The project aspires to nothing material — learning a book by heart means to take on a continuous process of recalling and forgetting.
The first encounter was held in 2020 and contributed to the project giving rise to two new “living books” in Spanish and which, along with five titles in English, were made available in in-person and epistolary formats for interested visitors.
In this year’s edition, across three days the reading-transmission of the two books in Spanish can be requested or one or more of the five books in English, all outlined in the list below, can be received by mail. A total of six living books makes up the catalogue of this second instalment.
Since its inception in 2010, Time has fallen asleep… has been presented in over fifty book shops and libraries in different cities, with a growing number of living books that form a library currently holding 88 titles in English, French, Arabic, Dutch, Norwegian, Greek, German, Polish, Estonian, Swedish, Danish and Greenlandic.
The activity is complemented with a public conversation between artist Mette Edvardsen and researcher Victoria Pérez Royo, who has collaborated closely on the project.
Mette Edvardsen lives between Oslo and Brussels and works in the sphere of stage arts and performance, in addition to her explorations in other mediums and formats such as video and the publishing and experimental composition of books. Due to her training as a dancer and participation in choreographic projects and prestigious companies like les ballets C de la B and Mårten Spångberg, her work is often framed inside the field of dance. Perhaps it is the place from which she investigates modes of generating practices and situations, although her work does break out beyond such disciplinary limits, delving into hard-to-classify terrains, with an interest in the relationship between language and action running through the centre of her work. Edvardsen is currently a researcher at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and an associated artist at the Black Box theatre in the same city. She is also a founder, with Juan Domínguez, Alma Söderberg and Sarah Vanhee, of the collaborative platform Manyone.
Living books available
In oral format:
- Amuleto (1999), by Roberto Bolaño
- La hora de la estrella (1977), by Clarice Lispector
- Monkey (1942), by Arthur Walley, a translated and abbreviated version of Journey to the West (s. XVI), attributed to Wu Ch’êng-ên
- Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (1969), by Kurt Vonnegut
- A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (2018), by Anne Boyer
- In the Skin of a Lion (1987), by Michael Ondaatje
- Mette Edvardsen
- Mette Edvardsen, Violeta Gil, Siriol Joyner, Irena Radmanovic, Jon Refsdal Moe, Andrea Rodrigo, and Emmilou Rößling
- Mette Edvardsen / Athome & Manyone
- Dubbelspel - STUK Kunstencentrum & 30CC (Leuven), Dance Umbrella (London), Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), NEXT Arts Festival (Valenciennes, Lille, Kortrijk, Villeneuve d'Ascq), Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), osloBIENNALEN First edition 2019–2024 (Oslo), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid)
- Arts Council Norway / Norsk Kulturråd