Sarah Fuller

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Becoming the Subject, 2009

Video, 4m 56s

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Excerpt from full length video, Becoming the Subject.

Dream Lab is an interdisciplinary project that was explored in collaboration with the Dream and Nightmare Lab at the Sacred Heart hospital in Montreal. In this incarnation, I became the subject of a lab experiment concerned with the hypnagogic, or sleep onset, stage of the sleep cycle. The hypnagogic stage of sleep was of great interest to artists like the Surrealists because it could be used as a method to harness creative imagery and the uncanny. This particular stage of sleep is unique in terms of the dreaming mind because the rational mind is just beginning to shut down for the night. As a result, concepts or ideas that may still be rooted in the conscious mind are freed slightly from our habitual thought patterns, and often connections or solutions to problems are revealed in this state. The dreams experienced in this stage are very short in duration.In the lab I engaged in a process whereby two researchers observed my EEG activity from an exterior observation room, while I sat upright in a chair in an adjacent room attempting to fall asleep. When my EEG activity indicated a shift from consciousness to the unconscious, the researchers would allow 4-5 seconds of hypnagogic dreaming to elapse before triggering the shutter release cable, thereby tripping the shutter and flash that would act as my awakening tool. I am interested not only in the resultant photographs but also the process of becoming the subject and being awakened. The photographs themselves function as documentation of the precise moment I am crossing the threshold between consciousness and unconsciousness, while the process itself – and the accompanying video, audio, EEG and written documentation – functions as a performative act in both an artistic and scientific sense. One of my main concerns is the role of artist as observer – not only in the world around her, but of the lived experience, memory, and the dream experienceFor inspiration, I have drawn on a technique used by Salvador Dali, which he called "the slumber with a key" method of upright napping. In this method, Dali fell asleep upright in a chair loosely holding a key between his thumb and forefinger. As he passed into the hypnagogic stage, his muscles would relax, thereby releasing the key that would produce enough sound to wake him up mid-dream. In place of the key, I have utilized documentation of my own brainwaves as the trigger – relying on a collaborative practice with the dream researchers to produce both the still image and dream report.The three main aspects of this body of work are the cognitive processes connected to methodology, the role of the artist as observer, and making the intangible tangible through visual documentation and cataloguing

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