Five hand embroidered pillowcases
“Above all, it is the plethora of authorities and bureaus, of laws, prohibitions, and penalties, which give rise to the most varied anxiety dreams in a dictatorship.” - Charlotte Beradt, "Dreams Under Dictatorship," Free World (October 1943), 333–37.
Exhibition view, “Sleeping with a Vengeance, Dreaming of a Life“, 2019, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, photo: Hans D. Christ
During the Second World War, a Berlin-based journalist who later escaped to the United States began collecting dreams. Charlotte Beradt was investigating the connection between the private and shared nightmares that appeared in sleep under dictatorship, eventually publishing her research in a book titled The Third Reich of Dreams. One of the most prominent themes Beradt noted were dreams related to bureaucracy and prohibitions, in a time where laws seemed to be continuously changing under people's feet.
Inspired by Charlotte Beradt's work, In the Language of Interrupted Sleep draws attention to five pieces of legislation that knowingly or unknowingly outline whom is allowed to rest where, how, and under what conditions. Starting with the official definition of a refugee cemented during the 1951 World Refugee Convention that puts the burden of proof on individuals to show they have a "well-founded fear," to contemporary mandates relating to the vulnerability of homeless persons sleeping in the public sphere. The work reflects on how deeply personal concepts such as “harassment,” “character,” and "fear" are reduced to bureaucratic speech.
Photo by Ruth Noack, Institute for Provokation Bejing, 2018
Interpretation of dreams, considered to be open-ended and esoteric practice, is merged with interpretation of the law, falsely presumed to be an objective and didactic affair. As abstruse as the choice of segments are, however, they are not hallucinated but taken from actual legislation, whose ambiguities have real consequences. For it is often not the laws themselves that keep us up at night, but the uncertainty of where we stands in relation to them under shifting circumstances and governments.
In this work, sleeplessness is materialized through the repetitive act of embroidering into the night. Empty statement usually seen on pillowcases such as 'Home is where the Heart is', are replaced with texts that actually define what the home is. The pillowcases are set hanging on a clothline, a space where intimate objects get aired out in the public.
Photo by Sanne Kabalt, Yellow Brick Studio, Athens 2018
In the Language of Interrupted Sleep was produced for the group exhibition "Sleeping with a Vengeance, Dreaming of a Life", curated by Ruth Noack. It was exhibited in Athens, Prague, Beijing, and Stuttgart.
Yellow Brick Studio, Athens, Greece, 2018
Photos by Sanne Kabalt / CURRENT Athens / More info