Our Sandman: An Immersive and Relaxing Experience
Our Sandman is a contemporary performance art piece meets scientific experiment which explores the subconscious world of sleep. Created by Elsewhere/Rebecca (Rebecca Riggs-Bennett) during a 2018 PICA residency, this immersive work’s stated intention is to facilitate a collective dream state.
Atmosphere is imperative to the success of this piece and Cool Change Contemporary after dark is the perfect setting. The building has the feel of an abandoned Victorian hospital – including crisp white walls offset with that weird federation green you see only in institutions, and adjacent offices offering psychological services. As you arrive, you are offered a cup of herbal tea and invited to remove your shoes. Sounds of people shouting and laughing waft in through the open window, creating a sense of separation from the world. Then George ushers you through to the performance space and into heaven.
Elsewhere/Rebecca is our guide for the evening, sitting cross-legged with mattresses arranged in a crescent moon around her. Like the mythical sandman, she controls our experience, playing ambient original compositions and recordings of EEGs while projecting smokey shapes onto the ceiling. Weirdly, this is the second theatrical experience I’ve had in the last six months which required me to lie down and watch the ceiling. It’s more than a gimmick: lying down is an act of vulnerability which helps to open the viewer up to the experience being created for them.
Humans are hard-wired to make sense of the world around us. For me, this meant seeing figures – faces and bodies writhing around each other - in the smoke that wreathed the ceiling. What this says about my subconscious is best left to the psychologists out there. But the need for sense-making was evident in the stories we heard of other people’s dreams which occasionally echoed around the room. Recent research shows that empathy is heightened when listening to stories told by a disembodied voice and this, along with the state of deep relaxation which we’d collectively entered by this point, engendered a sense of one-ness with the speakers
At once a kind of group guided meditation and an exploration of the workings of the subconscious, Our Sandman is a unique experience. As another guest said while we were leaving “I’d pay for a recording of that. It was so relaxing”.
Our Sandman is showing until the 19th of January at Cool Change Contemporary, Barrack Street.
Only 5 tickets are available each night, so get in quick.