A conversation with Danilo Correale

On worktime, sleeptime and dreamtime

In his video installation No More Sleep No More artist Danilo Correale investigates sleep and the ever-changing infringement of work on our sleep. Is sleep the only activity in which we can still be free? And will sleep-time in the future become more and more another mode of work-time?

– A conversation between Elien Haentjens and Danilo Correale

“Everyone can relate to the subject of sleep”

In our capitalist consumer society, time is a precious commodity. “Since the socioeconomic model we’re living in is entangled in centuries of exploitation and extraction, the last frontier of time to extract is perhaps the night time, a space usually dedicated to sleep. In our globalized society where economic transaction happen 24/7, the idea of the night as space for sleep is shifting. So far, sleep seems to be about the only activity in which we are still free and do not have to be productive. In this sense, sleep can be seen as the only moment of real free time. Although you may also wonder if it still is, when your phone is next to your head, and e-mails and Facebook messages are coming in from all over the world all the time. Perhaps in the future we will be able to activate production purely through mental force,” says Correale.

A personal experience was at the heart of the project. “Since I live and work between my hometown of Naples and New York, I often suffered from heavy jet lags. At the same time, New York is known as a city that never sleeps and runs 24/7. That’s why I decided to start living at night. Soon I saw the world from a whole new perspective. Because the social activities you do at night or the people you meet are not the same as during the day,” says Correale. “Since my work is always about the fundamental elements in our daily lives such as work versus leisure – in relation to the economic and political conditions and time – this subject fitted in perfectly with it”.

With No More Sleep No More Correale transformed his personal experience into a much broader, academically based project. “Before that, I went to talk to experts from different domains, such as history, anthropology or medicine, in order to better understand the phenomenon of sleep. For example, one historian told me that before the Industrial Revolution we slept in different phases between sunset and sunrise, whereas now, this has evolved more into monophasic sleep. These very different conversations are the basis of the text that I read between the pieces of soundscape in my installation, and which I compiled in my book”.

Sensory Trip

For the abstract, somewhat hypnotic images of the 240-minute HD installation, Correale set up an experiment. “I wanted to mimic the abstract images you start to see when you close your eyes and lay your finger on them. On the other hand, I also wanted to evoke a feeling of loneliness. Because when you’re sleeping, you’re always alone, even when you sleep together with someone.  That’s why I traded my daytime rhythm for a nightlife for a month. Although that shouldn’t be such a big difference in itself, the lack of sleep exhausted my body very quickly. It took a lot of time to adjust, and I was less aware of my physical presence in space. I created the images myself using old techniques from experimental cinema.”

The work itself is meant to be experienced as an audiovisual installation that invites visitors to spend some time in it and take a rest. “Whatever moment you pick up, you will always get something out of the installation without much effort. On the one hand this is because everyone feels involved with the topic of sleep, and on the other hand, because the text encompasses so many different layers and meanings of sleep. Together the image and sound take the spectators on a meditative, sensory trip”.

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Elien Haentjens