Structuring Somnolence: Sleep Science Technology as a Medium for Drawing with the Body at Rest


Session Title:

  • Neuroarts

Presentation Title:

  • Structuring Somnolence: Sleep Science Technology as a Medium for Drawing with the Body at Rest




  • In December 2010, three volunteers participated in a two-week sleep study conducted by artist and experiment designer, Lisa Carrie Goldberg and administered by a certified sleep technician. It was through these nocturnal events that the process of employing the body and the mind during sleep as a means of art making was realised. Through her studies in sleep biology and sleep technology, Goldberg has found a disparity between the quantitative and qualitative analysis present in current sleep science practice, a field heavily driven by technological devices. Through the process of repurposing these sleep-measuring devices as drawing tools, Goldberg intends to subvert the sterile laboratory environment. This paper, therefore, will investigate the fields of sleep science and art. The first intention of this text is to present a brief overview of previous art forms that have used sleep as their central theme. By utilising the instruments and technologies of sleep research, a series of artworks has been created at SymbioticA, the art-science research centre, in conjunction with the Sleep Science Centre at the University of Western Australia.

    Named the Structuring Somnolence project, the artworks include a series of sleep study performances that occurred in a sleep laboratory in Perth, Australia, as well as a single sleep study performance that took place at Science Gallery in Dublin, Ireland. Within this text, a description of these sleep study performances will be positioned within a theoretical technoscientific discourse. Throughout this paper the nature of art-science collaborations is explored in order to suggest methods for producing drawings through the appropriation of scientific protocols. The paper outlines the procedures followed when embarking on an artistic endeavour within the framework of a research university, one in which, for example, human ethics approval is mandatory. The paper also explores the semantic crossovers between sleep science, art and architecture, as comparisons are made between Sleep Architecture and structural architecture. Structuring Somnolence is a synthesis of Goldberg’s research in sleep science and her artistic practice.

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