The discomfort of the dream and the “digital coma” generation
On October 6th 2014, Fashion Communication and Fashion Styling students at Polimoda were given the opportunity to show the world their skills as they created multi-sensory installations set in the Villa Favard in Florence. Paired in teams, the students presented different concepts based on a variety of subjects and inspirations. This year, nine installations were shown to the public, spread through Villa Favard, which contributed its beautiful setting to the event.
Enji Wang and Maartje van Hooij designed one of those installation they entitled ‘Sleep Paralysis.’ Maartje van Hooij explained what her installation tried to achieve: “Did you ever have the feeling of dreaming, either asleep or awake, and yet despite wanting to, felt unable to escape your dream? This is what sleep paralysis does to your body and to your mind. Your mind wants to wake-up but your body is unable to do so. This feeling is what we had in mind when we created this installation, Enji Wang and I. It represents this kind of dreaming and the feeling of discomfort that comes along with that of comfort.”
Enji Wang and Maartje van Hooij created a video, projected on to a ‘living chair’ embracing a sitter. The ‘living chair’ was made of two people covered, like the sitter, by a white material.
The video recording the installation added a dimension to the project; Enji Wang and Maartje van Hooij edited it so it could stand alone. They called the resulting movie ‘Screensaver’.
The installation could be viewed, but was designed to be experienced as a sitter. The person sitting on the living chair was expected to experience a ‘comfortable discomfort’ similar to the feeling of being trapped in a dream typical of ’sleep paralysis’. Under the material of the chair the two individuals held the sitter prisoner. The moving mass of the chair, bodies and material, represented the sitter’s inner demons and the voices in his/her head; voices one does not want to hear but that are so very persuasive. While struggling against these demons the sitter also experienced the flashing images of the video projected onto his/her face. While the flashes created the discomfort of the dream, the demons of the chair maintained their control, causing the sitter to want to WAKE-UP and break out.
The ’Sleep Paralysis’ installation can also be interpreted as an allegory of life. We have all found ourselves in situations where it is, figuratively, easier to stay asleep than to wake-up.
Maartje says: “The boundary between the physical and the digital worlds in which we live is increasingly fuzzy. I believe that my generation and the one that follows risk being drawn into a digital coma, a life of endless swiping and scrolling. This video represents this fear. It is beautiful and interesting but also a long trip you want to break out of. We need to wake-up and break out of our comfort zones.”
Enji Wang and Maartje van Hooij are ones to watch.
By Letizia Francini Naldi
Other images: Maartje van Hooij