Eleven British artists will share works inspired by sleep at Gallery Different, London, from 24-30 November 2014. "Every night during the exhibition an artist will sleep in the bed in the gallery and create a new work of art inspired by that night's sleep. The exhibition will grow daily...therefore becoming an installation space for the exploration of sleep and creativity." The final, complete exhibition -- which is sponsored by an international hotel company -- will be on display on Saturday, 29th November. The Instagram page for the exhibition is here; interviews with the artists are available on youtube here.
Business Insider reports on recent findings about sleep as "the brain's unique trash disposal system" and speculates briefly about a future in which our cerebral cleaning mechanisms might be cranked up into "hyperdrive."
Lynn Stuart Parramore goes in search of lost sleep in the most recent issue of Salon. One highlight: 'Instead of heading to bed with anxiety, I've tried to dive in like a voluptuary, pushing away my guilt about the list of things I could be doing and letting myself become beautifully suspended between worlds. I've started dimming the lights a couple of hours after dusk and looking at the nighttime not as a time to pursue endless work, but to daydream, drift, putter about, and enter an almost meditative state.'
While Margaret Thatcher famously boasted about requiring little sleep to perform her prime ministerial duties, Vladimir Putin has seemingly emerged as an unlikely advocate for a good night's rest. "Putin said his decision to fly home had nothing to do with tensions over Ukraine ... 'We need nine hours to fly from here to Vladivostok and another nine hours from Vladivostok to Moscow,' he said in comments reported by the RIA Novosti news agency. 'Then we need to get home and return to work on Monday. There is a need to sleep at least four to five hours.'" But perhaps Putin's assertion of need is a humblebrag lost in translation: is 'at least' actually meant to indicate he deems only four to five hours sack time to be necessary? One way or the other, we don't envision the Russian president joining Arianna Huffington's sleep hygiene campaign any time soon.
In a fascinating article for Aeon magazine, Jessa Gamble takes a surprisingly upbeat look at the array of sleep-enhancing, sleep-curtailing and sleep-eliminating technologies that are currently being developed by scientists, the military and commercially-minded "techno-pioneers". The latest tools for mastering somnolence include the "Somneo Sleep Trainer" mask, which screens out ambient noise and carries a heating element around the eyes; "transcranial direct-current stimulation" (tDCS) technology, which combats insomnia but also helps to consolidate sleep; and "transcranial magnetic stimulation" (TMS), which may be able to "launch us into deep sleep at the flick of a switch." Should we welcome this brave new world of sleep-conquering gadgetry? Gamble certainly thinks so. "[A] life lived at 150% may be within our grasp," she concludes. "Are we brave enough to choose it?"
Written and presented by Dr Hannah Ahlheim, The Sleep of our Dreams is a five-episode documentary on the history of sleep in the "long twentieth century". It shows how scientific efforts to "understand" sleep have been accompanied by political efforts to "optimize" it, to adapt it to new rhythms of production and consumption; but the film also shows how, despite these new regulatory frameworks, sleep remains in some sense an "ungovernable" region of human experience.
October 2014 saw the launch of the Hubbub project, a two-year Wellcome Trust-funded investigation into the dynamics of rest and busyness in modern life. Research will be conducted by the Hubbub Group, an international team of scientists, humanists, clinicians, public health experts, broadcasters and public engagement professionals who will explore rest, noise, tumult, activity and work as they operate in mental health, neuroscience, the arts and the everyday. Readers of Sleep Cultures will want to check out the first blog posting on the Hubbub website, which contains a brief but fascinating discussion by the anthropologist Josh Berson of his work with the polyphasic sleeping community.
An article from the LiveScience website speculates on what life would be like if scientists were to develop a "cure" for sleep. Reassuringly, if unsurprisingly, the piece swiftly concludes that things would be worse both on a personal level (health, relationships and well-being would suffer) and at a social/economic level (sales of pillows and duvets would plummet). Probably the most interesting thread in the article is the distinction it draws between busyness and genuine productivity; in a world without sleep, it seems that we'd have more of the former and less of the latter. All of which might lead us to ask a new question: not "What would it be like to live in a world without sleep?" but "What would it be like to live in a world that didn't need to instrumentalize sleep in the name of productivity?".