|The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Shonibare's latest photographs rework an etching by the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, who began his career during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason. In the original etching, titled The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Goya is asleep at his desk, a billowing mass of creatures rising about him as irrational nocturnal fears take their hold. Goya's etching served as the frontispiece for his print suite Los Caprichos, a satirical critique of Spanish moral values and political corruption.
Shonibare's photographs restage the original image in five variations, each representing a world continent. The sleeping figure differs in each photograph and is at odds with the continent he represents: a white man for Africa, an African man for Asia, and so forth. The specter of unreason hovers nearby, its presence a constant reminder that humans are not perfect, rational or enlightened all the time.