SymbioticA Residency - 2012

Artist Residency: Sleeper/Lover

SymbioticA August - December 2012


My project with SymbioticA began with an exploration into how Sleep Science technologies could be used to make drawings of the body in a manner which exceeded the conventions traditional figurative drawing.

Initially I was drawn to the parallels between how I represented the human body in my studio drawing practice and how the body was represented during an overnight sleep study; that is to say, in both the body is represented as a series of fragmented lines on a page, in a manner which is both immediate and abstract and able to visualise areas of human experience or condition that are otherwise invisible.

Polysmonographic sleep study as it appears over night


During the research process I became particularly interested the concept of intimacy in sleep related experiences, particularly intimacy between sleeping couples and intimacy between the sleep scientist and her patient.


After completing my training as a Sleep Scientist at the University of Western Australia I began to explore potential methods for artistically visualising the territory and dynamic between couples sleeping together.  

By appropriating the conventional methods of polysomnography (PSG) I devised a 'Dual PSG' method of data collection which allowed me to merge (in real time) the breath, heart (ECG) and brain (EEG) 'waves' of couples sleeping together in the laboratory. This allowed me to produce a new type of 'line' through wich to describe an element of intimacy between bodies.


My early experiments with the Dual PSG method focused on the merging of two peoples ECGs (heart beats) in real time. These were conducted on a couple during wakefulness and consisted of selectively distributing a collection major ECG electrodes between the two bodies before plugging all the wires into a shared amplifer.

The result was a touching image of electrocardiographic collaboration visualising the wax and wane of a synchronous heartbeat.

It soon became aparent that only one body could act as a 'ground' for the transfer of electricity at any given time.

For this reason the visibility of the Dual ECG heart beat was determined precisely by the degree of proximity between the couples two bodies; sharpening with embrace and flat-lining when separated.

Dual ECG experiment documentation 13/10/2012: contact between bodies defines visualisation of Dual ECG


Drawing from the euphemistic notion of people ‘sleeping’ together SleeperLover iii substitutes the romanticised ideal of synchronous pleasure in the bedroom for a different kind of subconscious biological synchrony that can occur between couples.

Shortly after conductin the Dual ECG I recruited a volunteer couple to take part in an over night Dual PSG study, during which I recorded and merged their two sets of physiological parameters (breath, heart and brain waves) into a single, real time sleep study.

After completing their overnight 'Dual PSG' sleep study I returned to the data and mapped out the periods of 'sleep stage' synchrony between the two people as  they had occured during the night.

Sleep stage synchrony is represented by purple blocks; a-synchrony is represented by teal blocks; synchronous wake is represented by red block.

My intention was to use the time sequence of synchrony vs asynchrony to programme the movements of a kinetic sculpture built from plastic sheeting and bed sheets which, when inflated took the form of two bodies in a top-and-tail style embrace.

With assistance from computer programmer Josh crompton an inflation timing sequence was incorporated into the work. While the inflation/deflation proved successful, the inclusion of every single instance of synchrony created a chaotic barrage of inflations which I didn't feel fitted the aesthetic of the work.

I returned to the data and mapped out only the periods of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) synchrony and re-programmed the inflation sequence to run only on these. The result was a much more subtle and peacefull account of synchronous sleep.

The final work SleeperLover iii was later exhibited in my collaborative exhibition 'Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep' with artist Loren Kronemyer.

SleeperLover iii  (inflation sequence detail) 2013, plastic sheeting, bedsheets, air-pum and timer.

Timing of inflation is determined by REM sleep synchrony between a sleeping couple during an over night PSG sleep study.