Ludomir Franczak, Magdalena Franczak, Emrah Gökdemir, Magda Hueckel, Paweł Korbus, Maess, Katarzyna Mirczak, Joanna Rajkowska, Magdalena Starska
curator: Marta Ryczkowska, coordination: Agnieszka Chwiałkowska
The title lucid dream refers to both a dream which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming (associated with the ability to control it), and sleep perceived as the last bastion of absolute freedom. Sleep can be seen as a deliberate choice – a metaphor for resistance and refusal to participate in everyday rush, a purposeful detachment, no signal and repression of senses. It is an annoyingly irrational proof of the persistence of human physiology, declining to succumb to the forces of modernity.
We live in the times when day always seems to be too short. We are constantly in a hurry, functioning on continuous standby, which means that we are ready to return to action at any moment. As the state of absolute rest is ceasing to exists, the sleep mode – so common in various electric devices – has put an end to the switch on/switch off mechanism. Sleep is more and more rarely perceived as a natural process, necessary for our organism to work properly. Rather, it is seen as a variable, as yet another function that can be randomly suppressed or stimulated by taking sleeping pills or Modafinil. At the same time, it is impossible to eliminate sleep entirely. However, it is possible to depreciate its importance and make people control it.
The ideal in the world of Western capitalism are incessant activity and availability. There is no place for sleep, which has become an exclusive and somewhat anachronistic good. Our time is gradually appropriated by capitalist logic of productivity, in which sleep remains one of the last citadels of rebellion and human freedom. It stands for: conscious non-existence, isolation from ceaselessly operating, ever-expanding system, unrestricted drifting without any mercantile purpose, and voluntary immersion in chaos and darkness. This exhibition is an attempt at looking at modern times through the prism of dreaming as an alternative form of being in the world. When describing Paris seen at dawn from the hill of the Sacré-Cœur, André Breton in Communicating Vessels payed attention to the collective strength of sleeping people, whose desires, if combined, would be able to change reality. Dreams give access to primal forces of being, affecting not only individuals but also entire populations.
Jonathan Crary in 24/7. Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep refers to sleep as a political phenomenon. He notices that most irreducible necessities of human life such as hunger, thirst, the need for friendship or love were remade into commodified and financialized forms long time ago. Only sleep poses the idea of a human need that cannot be colonized. It remains an incongruous anomaly as nothing of value can be extracted from it. Modern world is not conducive to dreams other than those revolving around possession, capital and self-improvement. Therefore, it is necessary to activate new ways of thinking about the world, and here is where sleep steps in, along with the need to dissect hidden desires, anxieties, fears and hopes. As interpreted by the authors of the exhibition, lucid dream is not only a dreamland but also an opportunity to experience extreme situations and visions, often impossible to imagine in reality. One of them may refer to a radically different future.
From the scientific point of view, sleep is understood as a daily recurring state of mind characterized by altered consciousness and inhibited sensory and physical activity. It is distinguished from the state of being comatose by being fully reversible. Sleep is incredibly important to humans as only during the resting state our brain can be cleared. Every part of our body, except for the head, has its own lymphatic system which acts as a reservoir for metabolic waste products and other unwanted materials and aids the immune system in removing them. Brain clears itself in a much more complex and organized way, and it may happen only during sleep.
Observations of sleeping humans allowed scientists to distinguish five stages of sleep that proceeds in cycles. While sleeping, electrical activity in the brain exhibits a regular, repeating rhythm, which can be divided into: stage one (hypnagogia – transitional state from wakefulness to sleep), stage two (the longest), stages three and four (slow-wave sleep), and, finally, REM stage, characterized by rapid movements of eyes and paralysis of muscles. This stage is also referred to as paradoxical sleep due to very high brain activity accompanied by dreams. Everything that happens in the realm of dreams appears to be very real, hence the brain activity during REM sleep is reminiscent of the one observed during wakefulness, and for this reason lucid dreams begin in this phase. Sleep architecture resembles sine waves, and the longer we sleep, the more proportions of different phases of the cycle change and the longer and more frequent the REM phase becomes. As a result, the brain activity increases, which allows it to regenerate, affecting memory, creativity and learning abilities. At the same time, activity of prefrontal cortex, considered to be responsible for logical thinking, decreases, hence the appearance of abstract and unreal visions. This brain region is activated during lucid dreaming. A chaotic structure of dream hallucinations slowly starts to organize itself depending on the will of the dreamer.
Phase one occurs between sleep and wakefulness and is an important element of lucid dreaming practice as the body falls asleep while the mind remains partly conscious. Oneironauts consciously travel within their dreams, exploring illusory worlds. First step to making such journeys full of surprising sensations is recognizing that we are dreaming. Our brain recalls familiar feelings or creates new ones, making oneiric worlds seem alive and real. The dream appears to be an anarchic land taken out of any control, not conformed or subject to any system, with no possibility to archive, founded on impermanence and self-suppression. Still, various attempts are made to slip inside this land by means of technological innovations such as REM Dreamer. Furthermore, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, work on algorithms allowing for recording images created by thoughts and playing them back as videos, which could help to better understand what is happening in the minds of coma patients.
Artists presenting their works at the exhibition Lucid Dream examine sleep as a physiological phenomenon that has a considerable impact on reality. Art smoothly intertwines with medicine, psychology as well as social and political sphere. It looks for inspiration in both scientific and parascientific studies as well as in contemporary humanities and visual culture. The exhibition shows various contemporary artistic practices, including videos, objects, drawings, audios and intermedia site-specific projects. They can all be characterized by mindfulness, sensitivity to body changes, as well as the ability to see the world from a broader, more universal perspective, where sleep stands for refusal, rebellion and resignation, but also readiness to explore the unknown.