Thursday, May 5, 2011

To Sleep Perchance To Dream

by Drew Martin

I have been thinking a lot about sleep/rest recently, probably because I have defied it and have been denied it for so long. The analogy is that being awake is being alive while sleep is a form of death. But it doesn't work this way; there is a point when being awake and alert is counterproductive and the body cannot repair itself properly so the equation flips and you find yourself so tired that you feel like the living dead and sleep represents rejuvenation, because that's what it is.

How does sleep and media/art coexist? The references are abundant. Computers go into sleep mode when inactive. A sleeper film is a movie that takes everyone by surprise. The concept of sleep is played upon throughout history in mythology and stories such as Rip Van Winkle and although it is a tired theme, it takes on new meaning in science fiction whether it's in the long cosmic journey in 2001: A Space Odyssey (movie still pictured below, right) or in more recent films such as Inception.

Sleep and media are intertwined. Dreams are a form of media...they are internal movies presented to us with puzzling storylines. Dreams and sleep have been depicted throughout the history of art and contributed heavily to the surrealist movement.

Sleep is also often a transition from media or on the border of media. We stay up too late watching movies and reading books and at the same time a boring film or tome puts us to sleep.

The genius integrator of sleep and media was Andy Warhol with his 1963 film Sleep (pictured on top and below). It was his first film and was planned as an eight-hour-long movie of Brigitte Bardot sleeping but was made by filming his his friend/lover, the poet John Giorno, sleeping for six-and-a-half hours. A ninety minute section was duplicated and looped to stretch it out to eight hours to approximate a night of normal sleep.

"I could never finally figure out if more things happened in the sixties because there was more awake time for them to happen in (since so many people were on amphetamine), or if people started taking amphetamine because there were so many things to do that they needed to have more awake time to do them in... Seeing everybody so up all the time made me think that sleep was becoming pretty obsolete, so I decided I'd better quickly do a movie of a person sleeping."

What I have been interested in most recently is less about the relationship of media and sleep so much as substituting media with sleep. This means in times when I would normally read, write or watch something, I simply rest and perhaps sleep, which happens now while I am commuting by train or during my lunch break.

When you are young, the idea of cramming one's mind with ideas and experiences seems urgent but as you get older and wade into midlife I think you start to realize that the younger, less experienced, less educated version of yourself was just as nice a person as you are now. In many cases that former self was even nicer so what was the lesson learned from all of those novels and movies? What did all of those informational articles about the world really prepare you for?

I am 41 now and although I still love to read and travel and explore life, I also know that these things will not really change me much as a person. Instead, I want to rediscover those moments when I was a better friend, less stressed and keeping closer to my convictions. So I use the rest time to reflect on past experiences and remember friends and family members. It's not simply recalling a memory so much as it is pulling it off the shelf, dusting it off and rereading it.