Jan Vanriet's Sleepwalkers exhibition is the story of a half-hearted writer who sees his markers fade: marriage ruined, chronically short on money, best friend dying. And what about his discreet literary career, now that his general recognition has failed? The plot develops during a long night, a party of a snobbish socialite – dozens of participants dance until listlessness sets in. They invent silly games, stretch sterile conversations, feign interests, yawn ostentatiously into the morning. Bunch of spoiled sleepwalkers. The novelist is a decorative figure, or, because of his artistic status, an eccentric. He wins casual admiration, which flatters him, allows himself to be drawn into flirtation without destination. Small talk between the charming, detached, sometimes confused writer (as a word artist he calls himself a lone craftsman) and a self-righteous super-rich industrialist, seems like a game of badminton, their words bouncing in the air, tumbling like feathered balls. The writer thinks of a curious line by the Russian dandy poet Anatoly Mariengof: "Change the underwear of your souls!"
Sleepwalkers is inspired by La Notte, a film by Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961, and by an etching, Melancholia, made in 1966 by the Czech artist and Vanriet's friend Pravoslav Sovák (1926-2022). The catalog Sleepwalkers and a bibliophile edition are available.