Sleepers. Hole (2013)
A series of 20 found, punctured, 35 mm slides (each individually dated),
Printed as C-type
17.8cm x 25.4cm
The series of photographs which comprise Sleepers. Hole are part of Adam Chodzko’s installation Room for Laarni, Image Moderator (2013) which collectively explores the experience of being psychologically overwhelmed by the process of relentlessly viewing imagery flowing between communities. Chodzko researches this through trying to empathise with the character of Laarni, a remote image moderator for a social media site. Sleepers. Hole becomes one of the categories of image that Chodzko imagines Laarni is filtering into a group, a folder, on her computer screen (along with the other works in the exhibition, but particularly Too, Sleepers. Hole’s companion collection). In this group the community of the slumbering alludes to Laarni’s own fatigue through constantly looking.
Since 2007 Chodzko has been collecting individual 35mm photographic slide images ( ‘still’ images), taken by amateur photographers, of people sleeping, to have currently amassed over 100 of these images, shot all around the world, from 1950’s to the late 1980’s, from the slumber of babies to the dormancy of the elderly; People sleeping on buses, aeroplanes, beds, boats, sofas, on blankets in the open air, during military conflict (the Vietnam war) and out, in public, homeless, on the streets. By bringing these images together, accumulatively, Chodzko suggests a collective narcolepsy, a pandemic unconsciousness, a mass sleep or mass dreaming from a fairy tale, or, is this something deeper than sleep, are these images perhaps collective evidence of death, the end of everything? And perhaps there is also a sense of suspicion that our current waking reality is actually a perception within a state of sleep, a form of paralysis or hypnosis, where we are always distracted from the ability to recognise that if only we could wake up we could see the world as it really is, in order that we could, finally, discover how to act within it.
Chodzko stages these questions in the relationship between the material flatness of the 35mm film, that was there in a camera, in a room, at the time; a presence in relation to another presence, that of a sleeping person. The work connects our attempt to empathise with the sleeping subject to our parallel (and more elusive) attempt to empathise with the photographic documenter of this subject (who exists, invisibly, outside the frame) and then materialises these temporary occupations of another’s body through the treatment of sound and image in post production. The sleepers’ ‘withdrawal’ into another world, of dreams, both activates and destabilises our ability to empathise. The closed eyelids of the sleeper restrict our capacity for an embodied connection with them. The stillness and silence of a sleeping person, and a still photograph, creates a vacuum for the viewer, provoking other forms of consciousness.
We associate sleep with darkness, with night. But, in order for the image of a sleeping person to be caught on film there needs to be sufficient light; the light of a flash or an opened door, a light switched on. Because of the extent of the illumination of the sleeping subject each of these images offers a peculiar sense that sleeping is occurring at the ‘wrong time’, in spite of something, that it is a form of sleep somehow resistant to the waking world.
Holes pierce the thin flat membrane of 35mm film, leaking in light (an apparently perpetual light of constant day) : time to wake up ? Or, perhaps the holes are a form of infinite moonlight, an instruction to the sleeper to stay asleep. In Sleepers these holes become a conduit allowing a journey through one image and into another. As a punctum, an opening as a form of break or damage, they become the detail that we can become snagged on, or can enter or pass through. In this way these holes also become protective of the sleeper, allowing them to be kept safe from the gaze of the viewer.
Questions of consent, voyeurism, trust and maybe even guilt, are implicit in Sleeper, in the relationship between subject and author (and even the first audience for these images) and then a second wave of attention, drawn together by Chodzko and all the potential viewers of this series; with all of these different audiences there is quite a crowd hovering around the perimeter of the image, keeping watch.
Chodzko’s fascination with the subject of sleep (as well as insomnia, exhaustion, the nocturnal and dreaming) partly stems from his experience of a series of sleep disorders throughout his childhood, from insomnia to frequent sleep paralysis, night terrors, false awakenings and hallucinations; Sleep was deferred for as long as possible in an attempt to put off the apparent psychic chaos that it inevitably brought. Later, as an artist, the appearance of sleep in Chodzko’s work is partly a memory of both his envy and perplexity at the sleeping figure but it’s also partly conceived as an address to his younger self that it is actually safe to go to sleep. As part of his practice Chodzko frequently uses a hypnagogic state as a final editing phase of his creative process. Now, (with better sleep!), the issue is framed by Chodzko also within the political and the psychological state of disavowal; the erasure of sleep by our current culture, allows (with caffeine) certain pragmatic forms of our labour but it depletes our energy to imagine – or remember – alternative realities; we end up seeing no way out of a perpetual state of neoliberalism. We sense we need to act but through lack of real (and metaphorical) sleep we are energetically incapable of perceiving the route to access the necessary action to transform our selves.
In 2016 Chodzko used a number of images from the wider collection of Sleepers to make the moving image work Sleepers.
The ideas of sleep, insomnia, exhaustion, the nocturnal and dreaming have regularly appeared in Chodzko’s practice (eg: Ghost, Echo, Night Shift, The Pickers and Flasher), a fascination partly stemming from a series of sleep disorders experienced throughout his childhood, from insomnia to frequent sleep paralysis, night terrors, false awakenings and hallucinations.
The form of the hole appear in many of Chodzko’s works including Hole (in the wall of a museum), Somewhere Else, In Order to Complete Them (geothermal holes in the earth), Around and cell-a (in the ground, revealing or concealing archives) and in Secretors (in gallery walls, seeping fluid).
Room for Laarni, Image Moderator catalogue
Conversation between Jennifer Higgie, Andrew Renton, Adam Chodzko
Editor Andrew Renton. Published November, 2013
Download pdf of catalogue