Friday, October 22, 2010

Dreamy Science Experiments with Art

Since Aristotle first claimed that "a person awakes from sleep when digestion is complete", the act of shut eye has been a very misunderstood phenomenon. It took Sigmund Freud arching back to ancient Egyptian and Greek times who believed dreams could be interpreted to reveal hidden meaning to revolutionalise our thoughts on sleep.

However since the 1970s our old ideas have begun to crumble in the face of harder scientific theories. Thus the question begs, should we shed our earlier notions and put our trust in the new regime? Is hard science the only way forward? Does imagination, invention and art not get to play a role?

Somnolence Structures | Copyright Lisa Carrie Goldberg

Those are the questions on the lips of Lisa Carrie Goldberg who intends to bring to life the art, science & philosophy of sleep in a two part performance and art exhibition as part of her Masters of Biological Arts with SymbioticA at The University of Western Australia.

Lisa's fascination with sleep as an avenue for artistic exploration began with her observation that the science of sleep is trending towards a divorce from earlier softer notions and the becoming of a law within and of its self. This is despite, as Lisa points out,

"Neither the purpose, the function, nor a solidified definition for sleep exists."

As this trend depends, sleep science becomes increasingly inaccessible to the general public and inflexible for other interpretations. In response, Somnolence Structures hopes to unleash this pent up knowledge and halt the progressing dichotomy of sleep science by combing the scientific tools and methods developed for the study of sleep for the purpose of creating art.

As Lisa says,
I believe, while the answers are unclear and unestablished, that this is an ideal limbo state for an additional interpretation or rendering to be imposed upon the science, since [it] is not law yet.

Somnolence Structurings | Copyright Lisa Carrie Goldberg
Using the technologies and methods of sleep science Lisa will create body position graphs, known as somnolence structurings, tailored to the body position of individuals through the course of a sleep.

"We are focusing on how the body position sensor, which is placed in the middle of the chest of the sleeper, can depict landscape style images within their correlated body position graphs."

Each sensor captures four positions of the body being front, back, left, and right which each position is represented on the graph in four colours respectively: pink, blue, green, and red.

By directly intervening in the body position of individuals as they sleep, Lisa hopes to be able to control the sensors readings and thus the drawn somnolence structurings. As such it should be possible through this method to produce structuring similar to the pre-selected architectural landscape images chosen for each sleeper.

In a second round of experiments, the subjects bodies shall be supported in a desired position as depicted in their chosen architectural drawing by the use of a prop hand made by the universities masters students. A somnolence structuring will be produced in each case that is unique for each subject.

Is Law | Copyright Lisa Carrie Goldberg

As a precursor for Somnolence Structures, over the past year, Lisa has familiarised herself with sleep studies by observation in laboratories in Perth and Toronto. However as the aims of Somnolence Structures differs from that of a scientific study and that there are no dry runs, the entire project should be a large learning experience for all involved, as Lisa explains:

"The participants along with myself will be learning and experiencing in unison. A true collaboration existing both in conscious and unconscious states."

Through this collision of science and art, Lisa hopes that Somnolence Structures will generate an appreciation of the knowledge and skills behind sleep science and indeed as lisa puts it, "[allow the participant/viewer] to get a deeper understanding of contemporary artistic and scientific research combined."

The somnolence Structures exhibition will be open to the public in December 2010. With any luck, we will be able to provide you with a sneak peak of the finished work right here. Meanwhile Lisa will continue with her hectic schedule in completion of her masters at SymbioticA and the sleep studies that will make up the project exhibition.

For links, check out a recent interview of Lisa with 6pr radio host Steve Mills. And of course, if you missed it, the project blog.

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