Intimate space: Sleep, art and sociology

Heald, K and Hislop, J 2007, Intimate space: Sleep, art and sociology , in: New Frontiers in Arts Sociology: Creativity, Support and Sustainability, 28 March - 1 April 2007, University of Luneburg and Hamburg, Germany..

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While sleep has captured the imagination of writers and artists throughout the centuries, only recently has it emerged as a subject of interest for sociologists. Yet researching sleep poses an essential dilemma. As a subconscious process, taking place in an intimate private space, sleep is effectively beyond the reach of the researcher. The story of sleep is told retrospectively, with interviews and audio diaries in periods of wakefulness acting as an interpretative lens through which to make sense of dormancy. Capturing the actual lived experience of sleep has to date been beyond the scope of the sociologist. This paper reports on a collaboration between sociologist and artist to explore the intimate space of sleep. Invited into the ‘behind the scenes’ private world of the sociologist’s sleep, the artist used video camera, digital photography, and sound recordings to document one night’s sleep. Responses to the experience are discussed from the perspective of the artist and the sociologist. In an audio diary recorded after the event, the sociologist reflects on the night, highlighting the experience of being filmed while asleep and the intrusion of the artistic gaze into the sanctified space of sleep. The artist considers the notion of sleep as theatrical performance, explores the meaning of the transitional space between the conscious and subconscious, and the temporal boundaries of dormancy. Together they create images which illustrate the meeting points of the sociological and artistic imagination. Audio diaries, sound pieces and installations, creative texts and abstract photographic images will be explored during the presentation to illustrate the potential outputs of the collaborative process. The paper examines the diverse methodological, theoretical and philosophical perspectives which underpin the collaborative research process, highlighting the challenges and opportunities which emerge in bridging the gap between the different world views of the artist and sociologist. For the sociologist, experienced in capturing data from others, the transition from researcher to researched provided a unique opportunity to explore the meaning of sleep in terms of the self and to engage with the artistic process. For the artist, experienced in working with visual text, the use of sociological approaches to explore the data provided new inspiration. The collaboration is on-going and anticipates the production of new creative work in film, sound and text, forming a construction of new knowledge in the area of women, sleep, time and location. As outlined in the presentation, this will be achieved via live performances, complex multi-layered films and multi-projection installations. Dissemination to audiences is intended via film festivals (national and international) and exhibitions in galleries and at site relevant, non-traditional exhibition spaces, as well as through collaborative national and international paper and performance presentations. The paper highlights the value of communication and exchange between artists and sociologists. In creating new frontiers by going beyond the comfort zone of disciplinary boundaries, the artist and sociologist are freed to experience and interpret the world in a new light.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Themes: Subjects / Themes > H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Subjects / Themes > N Fine Arts
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: ESA: Conference on Art and Sociology - Mutual Inspirations
Publisher: Volker, K & al, E (eds)
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
Depositing User: K Heald
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2011 10:52
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 22:34

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