Sensibility immensely more irritable...
the abundance of disparate impressions greater than ever:
cosmopolitanism in foods, literatures, newspapers, forms, tastes, even landscapes.
The tempo of this influx prestissimo; the impressions erase each other;
one instinctively resists taking in anything, taking anything deeply,
to "digest' anything; a weakening of the power to digest results from this.
A kind of adaptation to the flood of impressions takes place:
men unlearn spontaneous action,
they merely react to the stimuli from the outside.
--Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 1895


Art, "Sleep", and Consciousness

It all started when I saw the following ad at 7pm on Friday, 12/3/99:

        Friday, December 3 through Saturday, December 4, 12am-6am
        Oliver Art Center, Oakland

        Bring your sleeping bag and mat to an overnight screening of Andy Warhol's "Sleep,"
        which embodies the paradoxes of film and consciousness first-hand as the audience
        drifts in and out of consciousness. Doughnuts served at 6am.

        "Sleep," 1963, by Andy Warhol; 16mm, b/w, silent, 321 minutes.

So, of course, I had to go check this out. It was last minute, sure, but I still called everyone I could think of who I thought might be spontaneous and crazy enough to go "spend the night with me" up in Oakland. Not one taker. Maybe I should have phrased the question differently. Anyway, I grabbed my camping stuff and away I went into the cold December night alone, not really sure what to expect.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the California College of Arts & Crafts Oakland Campus at 11:30pm was that I was getting that unique "artsy" vibe from everyone that I encountered. Then, I realized that I had never been on the campus of an art college before, nor in a room with 50 artists. Hmmm. You're a long way from Silicon Valley now, Mister Engineer...and it seems that even my appearance/dress was suddenly passe'...or, at the very least, boring. I considered ripping my T-shirt off and then tying the rags back on, breaking open my pen to dye a splotch of my hair or some random body part blue, and trading my Tevas with a homeless dude, just so that I might fit in better. But, it just wasn't practical: I wasn't about to rip up my treasured Shaman T-shirt from Ecuador, hate wearing regular shoes (especially someone else's) without socks, and I might need that pen to write stuff like this down later on! You can take the engineer out of Silicon Valley, but....

Movie Review: "Sleep"
     I set up my pad, sleeping bag and pillow on the floor somewhere near midway from the projector and the 20'x50' wall which would serve as the screen. Soon, I was surrounded by other campers and the clock struck midnight. Lights out, no intro, away we go. The image in front of us is about 20'x30'. Filling that space is a fuzzy (this film is from before I was born) black & white image of a naked, sleeping man's midsection. All that is visible is from just below his belly button to just below his ribs. It took awhile to even figure out what I was looking at. There is no sound. I can just barely make out some very subtle breathing movements.
     That first image of this part of the sleeping man's body remained for the next 15min or so. Then, the scene would change and you'd see another section of this man during his slumber, from a different angle and/or distance. You never saw his entire body, tho, so it usually took a few moments to figure out just what you were looking at just after a scene change. Sometimes the lighting on our sleeper would change, or a filter would be added, or there'd be a black- or white- out period, and sometimes these effects would be combined or alternated at differing speeds.
     But, mostly, this film was merely "still" shots of this middle-aged, completely-average-seeming-in-every-way dude snoozing. Each scene of the sleeping man lasted from between 5min and, I dunno, maybe an hour. So, that was pretty much it:  40-50 random scenes of a random sleeper displayed for relatively long, but randomly varied amounts of time with some random screen effects thrown in randomly...for almost 5 and a half hours.

..End of review..

Sounds pretty boring, right? Maybe even the longest and most boring film ever made? Yeah. But, here are just a few of the highlights, ya know, stuff that caught my attention during the flick....

watching the initial, unchanging, silent, black & white image for an extremely long 15 minutes, was almost excruciating. we wondered... and gave each other silent looks in the dark which pleaded: is this IT?, will the scene *ever* change, what the FUCK is going on here?, is this really going to continue until 6am?, what the hell have I gotten myself into?, should I leave?, guess I can just sleep here, sure glad that I did bring my sleeping bag, who the HELL would make a movie like this?, what could possibly be his intention?, this totally stupid...right?...or, am I?, do these artists speak this language?, is there anyone in the world who understands this friggin' movie and what I'm supposed to be doing, feeling, thinking right now?, am I really going to sit here and watch this?

if there ever is another image, what might the that next image be? how long will I have to look at *that* one? is it worth waiting for? will it make sense or add some meaning...or even more obscurity? is my intelligence being insulted here: dude makes a 5hr 21min movie which is completely boring and meaningless and expects me to just sit here all night? I'm ready for my donut least then I wouldn't be completely wasting my time...and *something* meaningful would be transpiring (is escaping an uncomfortable situation, using eating just to distract myself, a better response than just sitting here and going with it?), wish I hadn't come alone...this is maddening...wish I had someone to talk to about what's going on and/or what they're thinking/feeling about all this, cuz I'm really not sure if I even like this...or not...or what.

then, I say, "Aw, fuck it. I've committed the entire night, and I'm going to stay here and go with this, even if the scene never changes, and I never extract one iota of significance, and I just end up falling asleep. At least I came out here...just the knowledge that I am uninhibited enough to try something like this makes it's less boring than another of the thousands of insignificant, uneventful and forgotten nights I've just slept all night at home...and, at least I can say to myself, 'Hey, I did that. It was one of the most fucking stupid and wasted evenings of my life, but I went in open-minded and open-hearted and tried it, dammit!' Whatever. And, oh, by the way, Warhol's either a complete simpleton, a complete fraud, or just an asshole out to waste our time. Whatever."

then, I start cracking up, almost uncontrollably when I "get it" that maybe this is the intended experience and, if so, man, good joke...sorta...the realization that the dude gets us to commit to an entire night out here, on the floor with a bunch of strangers and then starts fucking with us like this is suddenly hilarious to me, but I try not to laugh too loud, cuz I'm afraid that I might "disturb" someone else's "experience"...these are art people, after all, and some of them are in such reverent observation...which cracks me up even more. I look around, nobody else is laughing...that cracks me up even more...he's got them all going like I was...wondering, really wondering...really thinking...responding *emotionally* to this situation...I'm laughing out loud now and looking at some of the people that I chatted or made eye contact with before it started, and they're all either glued to the wall or have already given up...some of them see me & are wondering what the heck I'm laughing about and, probably, what my problem is....

Still, nobody gets it! They are so immersed in the experience and are trying SO hard to squeeze some meaning from the image on the wall (or, have already checked out & given up completely) that they don't realize that they've just been manipulated...and, seeing me laugh isn't tipping them off either...not a one...which cracks me up even more...ya know, like you're in on a joke or prank and the prank is at its funniest just before it's figured out...and, you're sure that any second now they'll get it...and, you want them to get it and you try to coax & hint to them so that they can finally share in and appreciate the joke...and the tension and humor mounts each second as you wait and wonder who will be the first one to crack up. But, they don't get it...and, they never did...and, then, all the sudden, it wasn't that funny to me fact, it was kinda sad.

And, just when I was pretty sure that I had figured out the gig and, also, that I was going to be on my own for this trip (even amongst a room of 50 people), I realized that my original realization was just the beginning, and I started noticing other stuff:

realization that people can not _deal_ with no input, nor without input that they consider interesting/meaningful...they almost go into a panic mode without meaningful for maybe people who meditate...which is probably what "saved" me from mentally "checking out" of this experience....

helium-filled silver stars floating around room in interesting trajectories on unseen air currents; we think "thank god for the balloons...otherwise there'd be _nothing_ happening here!"; some people bat them back up into the air; some of the balloons move along the floor on their own; after awhile a tall oriental dude goes and collects all the balloons and brings them to the back of the room; who said he could do that?; who said he couldn't?; my sense is that he is so uncomfortable that he needs to gain some control and/or add some meaning to the situation by manipulating it; what are the silver, star-shaped balloons about, anyway?; realization that people become extremely uncomfortable and nervous when they're in a situation for which the rules of proper behavior haven't been defined for them; similar panic mode ensues; people don't know if it's ok to talk, or not...eating & drinking seems ok, are they disrupting/disrespecting the art?...nobody is sure, cuz nobody is really sure just what the intended experience is...will I miss something if I sleep? ok to stand up?; oriental dude sends silver stars back out; should the silver stars be allowed to disrupt the movie? is paying attention to the stars missing the movie? is not paying attention to the stars missing the movie?

there is a subtle shift of consciousness...

now, the meaningLESS has become meaningFULL and very attended to; the way the projector light reflects off the silver star balloons; the way their angle causes differently-shaped shadows on the "screen"; smaller picture showing on the opposite wall of guy's head on pillow; same guy?; 3 girls drinking beers to the right of and slightly behind me; two small security cameras 30 feet up in either corner of this room with blinking red lights on top (thought: maybe they have valuable art in this room from time to time?); now one balloon's orientation makes it look like it has a penis; several of us laugh quietly, unsure if we're being "dirty"; someone comes in late to his pre-arranged spot in the front, obscuring the movie for a second; do people care?

realization --> it's almost like things are going in slow if time itself has slowed down, to keep pace, perhaps, with the dearth of activity here....

then, drama!

the sheer *EXCITEMENT* and clapping when the image _finally_ changes for the First time!; realization that in messing with my sleeping bag, I almost *missed* it...the First scene change...true sense of relief that I didn't miss it...and that there *was* a screen change and that the hope for another is good...then, laughing about how much it mattered to me! Thoughts about how many screen changes happen in a single second (60+?) during a normal movie, how much I must miss, and how little it seems to matter compared to now: The meaningLESS had truly become meaningFULL, and I was witnessing my own consciousness at work....

maybe 45min or so has gone by now and I come to the drowsy realization that, "hey, I think I was meant to sleep...that it's part of the intended experience...didn't the ad say, 'drifting in and out of consciousness'?"; my conscience appeased, I crawl into my bag and close my eyes; still in a heightened state of awareness....


stuff that happened when I closed my eyes; stuff that happened when I opened my eyes; hardness of floor; temperature in room; way I was sitting; how much attention I was paying to the film; sound of glass bottle being knocked over by some unseen person somewhere behind me in the dark; my own particular thought, physical sensation, emotion, or reaction to any of these occurrences; my own unique interpretation of my reaction (e.g., girl in front of me moves purse closer to herself before going to sleep; my thought "oh, she wants to prevent anyone from stealing it".."Hey, I'm the closest person".."Was she looking at me weird earlier and then again just before she moved her purse?".."What must she be thinking about me?".."Interesting how her moving her purse caused me to wonder if I appear to her to be a bad person or at least someone who would steal something from her given the chance".."Interesting that she would think that someone sharing this same uniquely bizarre experience with her might steal something from her in the dark")

sudden sound of a man talking; understandable words, but not meaning; what the fuck is going on?; is this part of the movie, or an idea of whomever set this up?; what about the floating stars?; do some of the art students know?; crunching on some of the peanuts I brought

black guy who just could nOt or would nOt deal with this experience and stood outside, in the cold, in the middle of the night, reading Kissinger's _Diplomacy_, or talking to whomever would come out, the ENTIRE time; my conversation with him...

purse girl in front of me puts ear plugs in; sleeping man's dimples appearing and disappearing with his swallow; every detail of every scene: his haircut, formation of lips, fold coming down from right nostril to just above corner of his mouth, where his chest hair grows, where it doesn't grow, his eye moving underneath his eyelid, realization that "hey, he must be dreaming...wonder what he might, might have been dreaming about...wondering if this guy is even still alive today....", noticing my emotional reaction to the possibility that I'm watching a dead man sleep....

watching his breathing & when it would change or he would shift position (or, should I say "his body would change position"?) he aware of the his body shift and, if not, then what caused his body to move so relatively drastically and suddenly; am I aware at some conscious level of when I shift positions while I'm asleep? (I think: " some very low level...sometimes...?"); dude to my left starts snoring; the changing of the 16mm reel after about an hour (or, was it 2? 90min?)...I have no idea; realization that this, too, is part of the film, part of the "experience"; dude in front of me's silent, but obvious frustration at dude next to me's snoring; my psychic pleading with him not to wake the 1st dude up to stop him, as I am sure that someone snoring was an intended part of the artwork; subsequent realization that maybe 2nd dude's reaction was, too...or, maybe none of it was ever preconceived by Warhol...?

realization that we are now part of the film, part of the art; realization that each showing of this film is a completely unique experience...that all Warhol has provided is the container; wondering if he knew/planned any of this when he made the film....white, black, white, black alternating blank screens now...end of reel? no, here's the same scene again; art student dude stands up in the middle of the projected image & starts making his shadow interact with the huge, projected sleeping dude's ear; dude at 2 o'clock from me on the beanbag not so surreptitiously takes out a joint and puts it in his mouth, has a moment of uncertainty & doesn't light it, looking around, "is it ok?", finally, he fires it up; nobody cares...except the guy in front of him, who wants a hit; most people are sleeping by now....

AWAREness... noticing...

music which started at 3:37am; wonderment that any music came on at all...what/why?; thought of the foods & liquids that I brought; at 3:41am, I notice that I am the ONLY person on the floor who hadn't gone to sleep or left; 3:42am: baby wakes up, cries; now, there are 3 of us awake; wonderment: why am I writing any of this down?...every detail seeming profoundly important, every instant so rich that I could write pages on just that moment, miss more than I described and never even come close to describing it all...and that now it's gone, and another indescribably rich moment is gone again, and another, each never to be repeated...

time is happening...

still noticing way more stuff than I could ever write down...catching such a small fraction of it here that I wonder why I'm bothering...hoping that it will be enough to recreate, or at least accurately remember/feel, this amazing state of consciousness, this incredible state of ALIVEness and AWAREness again later....

Wondering what it will be like for you to read this in your normal state of consciousness...whether any of this present experience will come through...sudden realization that while I was there in the future (where you are now) for that moment, that I just missed some (probably interesting) occurrences in the present...which is now the past...gone & unknown forever...realizing that I'm doing it again, right now!

noticing within me the need to _share_ this.... what's that all about? missing some of my present to bring it to your future...why not just selfishly enjoy the moment...? cuz, it's so big that I feel that I cannot contain it all myself...or cuz it's so fantastic that I want everyone in the world to experience it...or cuz the pioneer reaps no rewards if he doesn't return and describe his quest...or cuz.....?

outside again...

The peanuts taste different now; farting feels different, almost as in slow motion; the cold is exhilarating; smoking is especially exquisite; noticing the complexity and incredible "interesting-ness" of everything outside; curator dude steps out for a smoke and chats: I learn that the silver helium star balloons were his idea, that Warhol placed no limits on how the film is shown...the garbled talking was from some apparently famous set of tapes of some guy who was recorded several times talking in his sleep; curator dude runs off saying, "whelp, I don't want to miss too much"...while, for me, his presence and our conversation was part of the film...wondering if he really "gets" it and, if not, just what he's rushing back in to see, since he's seen it several times already....? or, if maybe he "gets" something different from what I'm getting...something obviously more profound than the others inside sleeping...interesting mystery.... I extend it to every person at every moment everywhere...all having completely different experiences.... Even when we're together doing the same thing, we're in completely different universes....

back inside...and a new still scene is on; looking at it, trying to notice every new detail...every subtlety of the light and shadow and shapes and movements and the different shades of gray and what my brain decides they "are" this how artists perceive the world all the time? maybe it's time for me to go to art school....

noticing that I haven't noticed the two security cameras' red lights blinking for a brief 35 min or so from 4:05-4:40am; why did they shut off; why then?

I ponder again the first 10-15min of the movie, before any of us knew what the hell was going on...remembering our discomfort/fear when we had no instructions telling us how to react/behave...causing most of us, myself included, to give up conscious control and rational reasoning to initial fear/discomfort...cuz it felt like we were about to freak out and go into some kind of panic for fear of not knowing/exhibiting the proper behavior. Our initial reaction was a psychic scream: "Tell me what's going on here!! What am I supposed to do, Think, FEEL in this situation?!?!" When no direction (nor ostensibly meaningful input) was coming, most of us re-Acted by _doing_ something (e.g., emoting, eating, sleeping, talking, playing with the balloons, etc) in an attempt to distract ourselves from the anxious feelings, while a bold (or extremely scared?) few took action to try to control the situation (e.g., those who just up and left in "disgust", the Asian dude who went and collected all the balloons).
We were all so immersed in our reacting, however, that I doubt anyone realized what the initial mental panic was about...very interesting, if not shocking.... Is that why we have so many rules in our society?
Is it that completely new experiences are seen as a threat to the human animal, until s/he figures out just what's going on and how to behave to avoid being injured/killed? If significant understanding is not possible before the internal alarms reach a certain volume, do we run away out of pure instinct (either literally, or psychologically via random actions)? Is this some vestigial behaviorism which served us in a wilder, saber-tooth tiger world of large and unpredictable predators?
But now, perfectly safe experiences still trigger this primitive psychological defense. New experiences, even in our safe and civilized world, which is almost completely devoid of large predators, still frighten us if defined/proper behaviors (rules) are not provided us. (We were in a warm, safe room, cozy in our sleeping bags, at an art college in the middle of the night, for chrissakes!)
Or, is this fear/discomfort a (relatively) *new* element that came along with "society" and "civilization"? Have we, instead, become so programmed/adapted through a life of punishment, humiliation, ridicule, and certain religions' ideas of "sin" so as to be fearful of doing something that those in positions of societal power have determined is "wrong"/"bad"? Or, have we merely transferred the primitive adaptation of fear of injury from the physical to the psychological? I.e., instead of being attacked/hurt by wild predators, we now fear being attacked/hurt/judged/imprisoned/humiliated/berated/extricated/etc by other humans (or God)?
Either way, it seems that in response to this fear (be it primitive or "new"), we have done our best as a species to create a world in which as much of the life experience as possible is defined and predictable, so that we always know what to do, or at least have a set of rules from someone who's been through said new experience before. Almost everywhere we go and everything we do (possible exception: being in the wilderness) in modern society has a socially or legally defined set of rules for "acceptable" behavior. Further, so many of those rules and norms are so ridiculous and illogical that we are teaching/programming/adapting ourselves that thinking/reasoning for ourselves is, at best, useless and, at worst, dangerous...since often the sane/logical conclusions will land you in jail, get your ass kicked, make you a social outcast, or, at the very least, get you a good and belittle-ing tongue-lashing.
Are these ubiquitously illogical/irrational rules why we seem to have become so afraid to actually _think_ for ourselves in almost *any* new situation (such as a bizarre, yet benign, movie)? Is that why so many of us can't even function without rules or someone telling us what to do, how to do it, what not to do, etc?!? How incredibly limiting we/society/value judgements/norms must be for the human species and our creativity and potential....
WoW! An engineer seeing the value of art as a world of free expression without adherence to rules...and the detriment of science and society on our species: Good flick, Andy!

I know that that sounded long, but it was really only a few seconds of thought...but, it is part of the experience and, thus, part of the movie...for me, anyway....

currently thinking about how even the subtlest subtleties of every single instant are so completely fascinating to me now; wondering if I'll ever be bored again--ever; wondering if I'll ever be uncomfortable again--in _any_ situation; imagining those situations... wondering....

realization --> the security cameras are motion sensitive!; they had stopped blinking because everyone was asleep and not moving; playing with them now to see how small a movement of mine they can detect from way up there, without my ever sitting up or getting out of my sleeping bag...coming to some crude personal understanding of their sensitivity to different types of movements at this distance (~50 feet from me)...why did I do that, especially in this childlike state of amazement and just noticing...all the sudden doing an experiment for the "higher purpose" of understanding seems strange...was I like this as a child, before all the conditioning and learning about science...? if not, when did I form this "facet of my personality"...? (Is "personality" even the right word? If not, what is...?)

To sleep or not to sleep?; part of the experience?; missing something? --> realizing that it doesn't matter, just a different, equally valid experience

'To be or not to be' --> new meaning

soft music coming from somebody's boom box in the lobby

Same image has been on for a really long time long...I don't know...hours? Realizing --> it doesn't matter

Incredible richness and complexity of sound as I piss into the toilet water

Everything I do (that somebody notices?) = part of this film

What if I'm the *only* one that notices something? Well, if nobody notices, not even me cuz I was thinking about or distracted by something else, was it part of the film? If nobody notices, did it happen "in the film"? Finally understanding that 'tree falling in the forest' thing....

4:30am: Some girl wakes up, sees me up, smiles and waves. I flip her off. (Just kidding: I wave.)

Curling my body around the feet of another unknown woman sleeping near me, whose feet are now on my sleeping bag, so as not to wake her...knowing I'll never meet her...even tho she's sleeping next to me on my own sleeping bag.... Strange.

Noticing my mind's "desire", now, at 4:54am to put it all in a nice, neat box in my head labeled, "got it--completely understood experience--no more attention required"...forcing myself not to go there...and, instead, going on to more and deeper insights...again and again, until I think that I've completely let go of the impulse to say that I've fully experienced this and have completely understood the experience; realizing that I will never accomplish *either* of the above for ANY moment of my life...but seeing the worth in trying....

ME = observer

BEING FULLY AWARE: THIS IS *MY*CONSCIOUSNESS*!'s almost a separate being....

If the "me" that's writing this is "the observer", then WHO/WHAT is directing the consciousness that I'm observing...?

Wanting, again, really wanting to say "Ok, now I know (completely) what this experience/film is and what it's about...see now, more fully, just what 'Consciousness' is, and how it fits into the CCAC series of art exhibits/films on Consciousness...I really must have gotten it now." Realizing, again, that I will never accomplish this...i.e., I will never fully understand consciousness...nor anyone else's experience...and maybe the only "it" to get is whatever individual experience each of us has...there is, after all, no exam...well, not for me, anyway....

But, how far do I need to go in increasing my awareness of this to finally say that I "fully" understand even my own experience....? Hmmm, really wish, now, that this were for a class that I was taking...would really like to hear what an art professor (and the art community) has to say about this film...!

Wow, he just Rolled Over! -- EXCITING -- that must've been the climax!!; wanting to wake people up and tell them, "You missed it!!";

Credits? Will there be credits? ...or, will our star actor go anonymous?

girl woke up in front of me and, to her obvious surprise, saw me furiously writing all this; I'm running out of space to write on these few scraps of paper I have....

...watching the "sleep" form, slowly coming out from around the sleeper's, _there's_ something ya don't see everyday; noticing...

the way my teeth feel in my mouth; the sensation of having them there on my mouth, lips, tongue, etc.; watching the movie upside down, what a brain-fuck that is now....

Feeling that I'm having a religious experience: The phrase "GOD is in the details" takes on a whole new level of meaning for me....

Feeling like I'm a kid, experiencing everything new, for the first time, before 30+ years of conditioning

END: WOW--That was a *..LOT..* of attention!!

Experience synopsis: Create a "very uninteresting" experience packaged as a normal or "unique" experience. Better yet, call it "art" and create that "artistic mystique" around it that "the elite of the art world find profound meaning in this" (might draw more people to try it). The brain will panic, so get people to commit to staying for the entire experience, just in case the ego threat of "not getting it" is not enough to keep them there. Sleep deprivation, silence, darkness, and isolation (don't let people talk to each other) all help. For those who remain present and conscious, a profound shift in consciousness will eventually ensue in which the meaningless becomes suddenly meaningful, as the brain struggles to satiate its constant need for "meaningful" input, and the ego struggles to satiate its need for understanding. This experience (of heightened sensitivity/awareness & the "shift in one's meaningfulness threshold") will continue to deepen for as long as you manage to keep people present and conscious. (Has Warhol merely tricked me into a 5+ hour meditation?)

Result: A deep inner peace and "newfound", almost childlike enthusiasm for the life experience itself.  Also, a deeper experiential understanding of human consciousness...and, thus, ourselves...and, thus, everything we will ever experience.