Cornford and Cross
The Sleep of Reason 2010

Meadow Arts commission, 2010
Scaffolding tripod, 24-carat gold leaf
3.7 x 6 metres

As a temporary system of standard components used for building permanent structures, scaffolding is often overlooked. But as part of the endless destruction and reinvention of towns and cities, it is ambiguous; its frameworks support schemes that articulate the urban environment as social space and as private property.
Reusing scaffolding for civil disobedience might have a parallel in the reinterpretation of words and concepts as pathways to social change. The scaffolding tripod is an elegant symbol of the strategy of non-violent direct action. At political demonstrations, activists put themselves in a position of vulnerability, with media visibility as the principal defence against the coercive power of the state and corporation.
Scaffolding set up as a tripod and offered as sculpture is doubly abstracted from its original function; by painstakingly covering the poles with fragile gold leaf, we stage a further paradox between the surface and underlying structure. Installed at the Commandery, where Cromwell’s New Model Army defeated the troops of King Charles II in the decisive battle of the English Civil War, this work aims to confront pragmatism with principle, or resistance with recuperation.
The work is titled after Goya’s etching ‘The Sleep of Reason’, which makes coded reference to the tensions Goya experienced between his role as court painter to King Carlos IV, and his increasing dedication to the cause of the Spanish peasants.


Francisco Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (1797)

Protesters, tripod scaffold poles

Scaffolding store

Gilding the scaffolding poles with 24-carat gold leaf

View from under the tripod

The Sleep of Reason, Scaffolding tripod, 24-carat gold leaf, 3.7 x 6 metres

The Sleep of Reason, Scaffolding tripod, 24-carat gold leaf, 3.7 x 6 metres