The field of idleness studies has been quietly busy in recent years. Notable post-2000 works on the cultural history of inactivity include Sarah Jordan's The Anxieties of Idleness (Bucknell University Press, 2003), which focuses on tensions between idleness and industriousness in eighteenth-century British literature and culture; Pierre Sant-Amand's The Pursuit of Laziness (Princeton University Press, 2011), which examines idleness and non-productivity in Enlightenment thought; Andrew Lyndon Knighton's Idle Threats (NYU Press, 2012), which explores the "productivity of the unproductive" in nineteenth-century America; Richard Adelman's Idleness, Contemplation and the Aesthetic 1750-1830 (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which argues for the centrality of idle repose to the British Romantic imagination; and Monika Fludernik and Miriam Nandi's edited collection, Idleness, Indolence and Leisure in English Literature (Palgrave, 2014), which ranges from the late medieval period to the twenty-first century, and includes chapters on the relations between idleness and class, gender and national identity. None of these books have a tremendous amount to say about sleep, but that's all the more reason for students of sleep to get thinking about how their subject intersects with, and differs from, idleness.
In a new chapter on sleep and sleeplessness in Ford Madox Ford and Siegfried Sassoon, Sarah Kingston offers some extremely suggestive observations on sleep, war and the disciplined body: "[I]n wartime especially, sleep is not a matter of individual comfort, but of national import. As such, sleep becomes not only a behaviour essential to productivity, but also one that is subject to discipline, therefore within the realm of disciplinary mechanisms. In essence, control over sleep becomes a point of threshold between public and private behaviour, and, as [Parade's End and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer] show, a point of resistance to the subjection of the body for public interest." Entitled "The Work of Sleep: Insomnia and Discipline in Ford and Sassoon," Kingston's chapter is part of War and the Mind: Ford Madox Ford's "Parade's End", Modernism, and Psychology, eds Ashley Chantler and Rob Hawkes (Edinburgh University Press, 2015).
Call for proposals -
Volume 21, Number 1: On Sleep
Deadline: 30 March 2015
Vol. 21, No. 1: ‘On Sleep (February 2016)
Issue Editor: Ric Allsopp [AMATA/ Falmouth University]
This issue of Performance Research 'On Sleep' sets out to gather research and speculative articles, artist's pages and images, critical and creative writings on the performance of sleep, and on how sleep - 'great nature's second course' (1) - as a state of being, as an image, as a metaphor, as a passivity or as an activity, can act as a catalyst for performance, or is performed. Can we talk about a scenography, a poetics or a philosophy of sleep in terms of, or in relation to, forms of performance?
Sleep (and sleeplessness) as a trope, as a pictorial or literary image has been a consistent cultural representation since antiquity. Artists (and audiences) often operate generatively in the transitions between waking to sleeping, at the borders where conscious and unconscious states merge with each other. A recent history of contemporary/ performance art and theatre provides a number of familiar and compelling examples in the work of Andy Warhol, Samuel Beckett, Bill Viola, Janine Antoni, Jim Findlay, and others.
These works attest to our cultural fascination with the invisible realm of sleep and its association with forms of darkness, night, and death. The worlds that sleep contains, borders, or performs, are worlds that not only inform or influence our waking lives, but also inform our relation to insomnia, as troubled and disturbed sleep, as somnambulism, and our inability to navigate the thresholds of sleep. To perform sleep is perhaps to be caught or suspended at these thresholds.
(1) Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 2, Scene 2.
Topics for proposal might include:
• Performances that seek the condition of sleep • Sleep and Theatre • Sleep and (In)attention • Sleep, Darkness and Night • Insomnia, Sleeplessness and Sleep deprivation • Sleep and Performance Art/ Installation • Commodity culture and the externalization of sleep • Sleep and Narrative • Performance of written/ literary images of sleep • Sleep and Time • Durational performance and the desire for sleep • Sleep and the Performance of Food • Performance and/as sleep walking • Sleep and Performance Training/ Research • Sleep and Performance Philosophy • Sleep and Scenography - the place(s) of sleep, slumber and reverie • Sleep and the Digital domain • Sleeping audiences and drowsiness as a purposeful attribute of audience reception We would also like to include in the issue some short contributions (in word and or image form) on memorable performances that have induced sleep.
Proposals: 30 March 2015
First Drafts: July 2015
Final Drafts: October 2015
Publication Date: February 2016
ALL proposals, submissions and general enquiries should be sent direct to the Journal at: firstname.lastname@example.org Issue-related enquiries should be directed to issue editor: Ric Allsopp <email@example.com> General Guidelines for Submissions:
• Before submitting a proposal we encourage you to visit our website (http://www.performance-research.org/) and familiarize yourself with the journal.
•Proposals will be accepted by e-mail (MS-Word or RTF). Proposals should not exceed one A4 side.
•Please include your surname in the file name of the document you send.
•If you intend to send images electronically, please contact the Journal first to arrange prior agreement.
•Submission of a proposal will be taken to imply that it presents original, unpublished work not under consideration for publication elsewhere.
•If your proposal is accepted, you will be invited to submit an article in first draft by the deadline indicated above. On the final acceptance of a completed article you will be asked to sign an author agreement in order for your work to be published in Performance Research.
In 1998 Jeff Bridges gave a career-defining performance as 'The Dude', the dressing gown-clad L.A. slacker who stumbles amiably through the bizarre plot of the Coen Brothers' surreal noir comedy, The Big Lebowski. Now Bridges has resurrected the Dude persona as part of the marketing campaign for his new artistic venture, The Sleeping Tapes, a collection of ambient music and spoken word designed to ease the listener into the land of nod. Produced in collaboration with the composer Keefus Ciancia, the album's soporific pleasures can be sampled here.
Tracey Emin's "My Bed" -- a dishevelled double bed surrounded by discarded clothes, bottles, cigarette packets and other odds and ends -- has been a source of controversy since it was first exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London in 1999. Once upon a time, the question that this work reliably provoked was "But is it art?". More recently, however, it has been suggested that "My Bed" is a little too artful -- according to one eagle-eyed art critic, the creases and indentations in the rumpled bedclothes could not have been created by the sleeping body of the artist.
In guest blog for the Wellcome Trust's Hubbub project, one of the founders of Sleep Cultures asks why sleep is unthinkable in the contemporary action movie.
On Thursday 11 December, Dr Michael Greaney will be delivering the Gladstone's Centre annual lecture at Gladstone's Library, Hawarden, Wales.
Sleeping with Dickens
"Sleep was a source of constant fascination for Charles Dickens. A lifelong insomniac who dabbled in mesmerism, he takes a remarkably keen interest in the sleeping habits of his heroes and heroines, and enjoys plunging them into sleep at inopportune moments, in unexpected places, with often comical and sometimes disconcerting results. This lecture will ponder the comedy, vulnerability and pathos of the sleeping body in Dickens’ fiction, and will consider what his obsession with human slumber tells us about the shifting relations between consciousness and oblivion in the Victorian imagination."
Click here for more information.
"We don't like to call it suspended animation," says Samuel Tisherman, the surgeon who is co-ordinating Department of Defense-funded research at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh on techniques to freeze trauma victims in the hope of keeping them alive. But reports on his research, such as this one in the Independent and this one in The Economist, have inevitably played up the sci-fi associations of "therapeutic hypothermia." The Independent's article is illustrated with an image from The Empire Strikes Back of a cryogenically frozen Han Solo; the Economist, meanwhile, goes with one of Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo emerging from hibernation in the sleep pods at the beginning of Ridley Scott's Alien. For all Tisherman's reservations, it's perhaps not so surprising that science fact occasionally needs to take a detour through science fiction before it can be made intelligible to a non-specialist audience. But we might also pause a moment to speculate on why this state of prolonged artificial somnolence -- call it hypersleep, suspended animation or cryogenic freezing -- looms so large in some of our most well-known space operas. What cultural fantasies might be encoded in the images of hibernating spacemen and -women that float so eerily through the science-fiction imagination? Anyone interested in these questions could do a lot worse than read the following post from Brian Baker's very fine (SF) 365 blog.
In an event specially designed for the Salisbury International Arts Festival, the New York-based singer-songwriter Joanna Wallfisch and the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto will perform an hour of music, words and story inspired by the world of sleep and dreams. Click here for further details.