after a conversation with my mentor – Max – I thought about the methods I decided to apply in this experiment. and about its goals. if earlier I committed myself to raising the dream to the position of a higher state of CONsciousness, to cause a universal exaltation of dreams and dreaminess almost equivalent to religious fanaticism, today I rather research the topic surgically, systematically, almost coldly. the most important question is not what I dream about, but what sleep is about.
_A Room to Dream_
a friend, a newly minted psychology student, sent me one slide from a lecture. I zoom the picture in and read:
sleep – a periodic state of conditional rest in humans and higher animals, during which the organism, having partially lost contact with the environment, actively restores its strength.
having partially lost contact with the environment… contact with the environment…
I like how this precise, natural-scientific description emphasizes the spatiality of sleep, at the same time justifying the meaning of my research – after all, I have put the politics of sleep space and the conditions of sleep space under the magnifying glass.
the structure, stages, and elements of the experiment are closely related to its name – ‘A Room to Dream’ – which refers to Virginia Woolf’s statement that ensuring a person’s basic physiological needs is the first step to their emotional well-being and having their own, safe home is a necessary condition of [women’s] creativity.
when considering the role of sleep, in addition to the necessary regeneration of the body, we should appreciate the fact that without a deep meditative state, without astral travel, without narcosis, loss of consciousness, or death, sleep is the most effective tool for distancing oneself from the environment. having lost control and awareness of the processes developing in real time, we become an object in space, without a will, without lust, without the ability to defend, without the ability to attack. we become an extremely vulnerable prop, or decoration, fully dependent on surrounding factors. will, lust, creativity and ego continue to live in the dream and its spaces. on the condition that…we give ourselves the condition to sleep.
the condition to sleep becomes a complex phenomenon, the weight of which lies in both physical and emotional possibilities. what gives and what limits those possibilities?
_limited and given opportunities_
the ability to sleep is perceived as a multi-faceted and globally relevant research object. the structure of the experiment is architectural in its expression – each question, aspect of research, and subject of concern are assigned a symbolic element: a bed, a desk, a diary, a bookshelf, a therapist’s chair, an altar, an animal – after all, four walls and a roof. each element and its theoretical meaning are broken down into project components implemented at different stages of the experiment.
the most obvious and unambiguous object associated with sleep, the bed. let’s be grateful if we have it. let’s be grateful if we can lie in it – sometimes I can only afford to look at it with the hope of returning to the warmth of my duvets and pillows…someday. suffocated by the demands of forced productivity, I ask: what crime did sleep commit, that it was turned into a privilege, losing its regular position in the quotidian rhythm? who stole our sleep – or maybe… bought it? how do bedless, wall-less, roomless, workless, and homeless individuals sleep? how much does the bed cost?
when _the bed_ raises questions, _the bookshelf_ provides the answers.
in search of an answer to the problem correctly observed by the bed (in bed?..) – the triumph of the right to profit over the right to sleep – we should look at the history of sleep culture starting from its very beginning. a literature list is compiled for independent reading – but somehow the reading doesn’t want to happen. it is difficult to force yourself to work and understand the meaning of your work when you are the only student in the class.
to create a more interesting and diverse exchange of ideas, a reading group was assembled: during five meetings, readers, dreamers and sleepers delved into selected texts, engaged in discussions, prepared handbooks and methodological materials for future students of sleep culture, its politics and spatiality. on the shelf, in addition to the six discussed texts, a dictionary of terms relevant to the topic appeared – a dynamically compiled and filled tool that helps both to better delve into the reading material, to add very needed accents, and to introduce newcomers to the topic.
the previously mentioned glossary is like a seminar’s mind map, made up of stray notes, underlined sentences, and individual thoughts. it can be considered as a kind of documentation of the discussion process – by following the words and phrases written on separate sheets, supplemented with explanations dynamically attached to sticky notes, it is possible to trace the course of the seminar in an almost detective-like manner. glossary is first of all a collective notebook, a sketchbook: here we freely express what resonates with us, what rings a bell, what causes us pain and what we manifest.
the thoughts selected from this joint draft will fall into an orderly, system-compliant format – because this is what the shame-free fruit of work should look like, because this is what the methodological-educational material looks like, because I will waste my time on this, subtracting it from the night and its sleep, because this is what my used to the prothestant work ethics conscience wants, because that is how my so-diseased-productivity tries to displace chaos.
the seminar ends with homework. students-participants-readers-dreamers are asked to create a small-scale and free-form work that reflects the ideas they have read and thoughts they have birthed. you have to earn the right to rest…
however, it is a good opportunity to review the flaws and peculiarities of the modern work culture – to become aware of the 24/7 processes that neutralize the natural cycles of the day, to watch how the night disappears when the sun sets, how the darkness of the sky means that it is time to turn the artificial light on.
to assume conscious control over the dream state, it is necessary to select a topic for dreaming. the magician should start with simple experiences, such as the desire to see a particular object (real or imaginary) and master this before attempting divination or exteriorization. the dream is set up by strongly visualizing the desired topic in an otherwise silenced mind, immediately before sleep.
(P. Caroll, Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic)
is it still possible to dream? does the overstimulated mind manage to squeeze out an original or at least somewhat memorable vision on its own, without the dreamer’s intention? sleep itself also comes with more and more difficulty – and it is necessary to invoke it with various additional means, techniques, pharmaceutical inventions.
falling asleep allows the momentarily disconnection from 24/7 processes, giving permission to temporarily suspend value, profit and all kinds of creative fruit-generating engines of consciousness. the sleeper becomes a shell insensitive to the environment, separated from will, lust, creativity and ego… but they only become so in the eyes of the said environment. will, lust, creativity and ego continue to successfully run the engines in the subconscious. wishes continue to be wished, produced, consumed or planned to be consumed – dreams fade in the light of day, but the desires realized and purified in them, clothed in camouflage, coordinate other, seemingly conscious decisions.
it is the work of modern day magicians. dreams are programmed by innumerable impulses transmitted to the brain with the help of numerous information channels, visual pollution, visible and hidden advertising, daily occupations or thanks to a wider than ever before network of social connections. a few-minute ritual to induce conscious dreaming stretched out over the course of a 24-hour day—and is done without intention.
in order to explore the remaining conscious choices related to sleep, personal sleep rituals and objects participating in those rituals are collected: phones, notepads, socks, books, toys, medicine, scents, tea mixtures. pictures of said objects are cataloged, thus creating a primitive toolbox for the modern-day sleep.
in the imaginary room of the project, in addition to sleeping, reading and thinking people, there is also a cat – a symbol of independence, but also the need to be taken care of. a cat is a member of the community, inevitably, knowingly or unknowingly surrendering to the hands of others. a cat is a tool for learning to care for another. it is a tool for learning to let others take care of you.
in the experiment, the cat and the message it carries are represented by activities with the community, rethinking and creating landscapes of care, normalization of sleep-liberating practices.
A Room to Dream is suspended somewhere between private and public space, like a bedroom with bare window-openings or doors removed from the frame. all its guests and residents are single units in the whole, individually experiencing but collectively creating different sleeping environments. it is a path of learning, adapting a new perception, loss and discovery of consciousness: it could also be called a classroom, with the condition that the hierarchical relations between student and teacher are abandoned.