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Mina Lunzer: Sleep as Movement/Sleep as Stillness. Colliding “Objects” at the Scientific Exhibition Dreamstage (1977). [Abstract]

This contribution analyzes the much-acclaimed exhibition Dreamstage, initially presented at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, in 1977. Based on conceptual papers, private correspondences, press releases and reviews, etc., it will claim that, at the time, divergent cultures of knowledge had created divergent objects of “sleep”: On the one hand, participating scientists and artists at Dreamstage represented what shall be called “sleep as movement” – by underlining the hidden activities of the sleeping body. Yet, popular cultures regarded sleep as opposing movement – a poetics, that shall be called “sleep as stillness,” would frame, or even romanticize, sleep as an act of refusal or pacifistic resistance. In virtue of their constituent logic, both objects were found to collide.

Throughout the 20th century, representations of “sleep” and “dreams” were shaped via multiple applications of objectifying/observational, time-based technologies (e.g., Electroencephalography [EEG], Magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], film, or video). This allowed for a circulation between laboratory, cinema, and television, in which knowledge appears to be consolidated again and again. “Sleep as stillness” and “sleep as movement” are thus developed from the case study to better grasp these formations since the late 20th century.

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