Presented by The Sociability of Sleep

InSomnolence banner image

An exhibition and event series exploring the social lives of sleep today

June 21 – July 13, 2023
Vernissage: June 22, 5-9pm
Agora Hydro-Québec, Cœur des sciences
Hexagram-UQAM, Pavillon des Sciences biologiques
175 President-Kennedy Avenue, Montreal, Quebec

InSomnolence is the result of two years of research and creation activities by The Sociability of Sleep, an interdisciplinary team that set out to explore the epistemologies and equities of sleep. Researchers across the four Montreal universities, along with selected artists-in-residence and invited local and international artists, worked together using a variety of methodological approaches and experiments to think about both the everyday and the exceptional experiences of sleep and its disturbances. Sleep is deeply personal; we are the experts of our own somatic experience. This condition is exploited in today’s generalized rhetoric of a “sleep crisis,” one we are invited to treat individually through sleep apps, sleep hygiene, or other individualized optimization techniques. Amidst endless tools and advice, we still often remain on our own with troubled rest. In this way, sleep is a paradoxical state, where we are at once most cut off from the world around us, and yet also in a state of radical vulnerability, one that requires more collective forms of care. Access to the sleeping self relies on the outside perception of human and technological others who bear witness to a state we cannot encounter or directly observe in ourselves. Who and what might provide the social forms of care required for sleeping subjects?

InSomnolence asks, through its artistic propositions, how then might exploring a sleeper subjectivity—the quotidian ways we navigate time, space, ourselves, and others—help us reimagine and reanimate the sociability of sleep itself? From the cyclical rhythms of productivity and rest to shiftwork and overwork; from racial and gendered inequities to cultural alterities; from the stigmatization and performance of fatigue to the medicalization of sleep; from the ubiquity of sleep to its privacy and invisibility; from individual experiences of sleep and dreams to the normativity of the sleep industrial complex—these are some of the manifestations of the social lives of sleep. How do the micro experiences of sleep help us shed light on what are necessarily collective concerns that remain largely invisible, underestimated and isolating?

Image of a body highlighted by a glow-in-the-dark mocap suit.

Yiou Wang, Morphai, 2023.

The artists producing work for InSomnolence collaborated with film and media scholars, and researchers in psychiatry, psychology, and medicine, to explore together how the tools, methods, and insights of arts, humanities, and social sciences can enrich knowledge, understanding, and normative treatment of sleep conditions, as well as the collective care of all sleepers. Rejecting the notion that there is one “perfect” sleep, this exhibition starts from the pragmatic, creative, and demanding ways that people seek rest, experiment with the thresholds of slumber, and shape the space-time of sleep in unexpected yet quotidian and ordinary ways. Sleep, we argue, isn’t just a necessity, but a practice and an art in itself: an ongoing ritual for recomposing our self and our world. The works offer interventions into sleep across a variety of forms—media installations, performance, sound works, design, video, radio broadcasting—to generate novel sleep situations that make perceptible, and thus actionable, our key intuition: that sleep is much more social than it might seem.

Featuring Works by:
Manon De Pauw + Pierre-Marc Ouellette (Canada)
doux soft club (Canada)
Nik Forrest (Canada)
Ilona Gaynor (US/UK)
Anabelle Lacroix + Nicolas Montgermont (France)
Yoojin Lee (UK/Korea)
kimura byol lemoine (Korea-japan/Belgium-kanata)
Paul Litherland (Canada)
Dayna McLeod (Canada)
Henry Tan (Thailand) + Ding Yun Huang (Taiwan) + New Circadia (Natalie Fizer + Richard Sommer) (US/Canada)
Yiou Wang (US/China)

Curated by Marianne Cloutier, Aleksandra Kaminska and Alanna Thain.

Pink-haired animated character acting as avatar for the artist.

Dayna McLeod, So I didn’t sleep very well last night, 2022.

Special programming will include performances, screenings, conferences, and workshops:

June 22: Opening night performance by Manon De Pauw and Pierre-Marc Ouellette.

June 26 + 27: Somnambulations 2: Critical Approaches to Sleep, an interdisciplinary graduate colloquium featuring a keynote presentation by Diletta De Cristofaro (Writing the Sleep Crisis) and an outdoor screening of sleep cinema on the evening of the 26th.

July 2 – 8: I’ll Sleep When I’m Undead: A Writer’s Workshop on 21st Century Horror Media and a public screening of sleep horror movies. In collaboration with the minoritarian horror research collective CORERISC.

July 7 + 8: Anabelle Lacroix and Nicolas Montgermont will be broadcasting two nights of Radio Insomnia online and over Montreal airwaves. On the 8th, join us at the Agora overnight (9pm-6am) for the live broadcast. If you’d like to contribute, see the open call.

July 13, 5-9pm: Closing reception

A full programming schedule will be available on the Sociability of Sleep website.

About The Sociability of Sleep
The Sociability of Sleep is an interdisciplinary research-creation project directed by Aleksandra Kaminska (University of Montreal) and Alanna Thain (McGill University).

Facebook @SociabilityOfSleep
Instagram @soc_of_sleep
Twitter @Soc_of_sleep

Agora Hydro-Québec is partially accessible. For complete details, visit their website.

InSomnolence takes place on unceded Indigenous lands which have long served as a site of meeting, exchange and rest amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations.

Logos of partners