It’s no surprise that college students are often sleep deprived because of their courseloads. I’ve been under a lot of stress recently and certainly experienced this myself, which is why I wanted to do something related to sleeping, specifically in a studying setting like the library. People fall asleep there often, so I did something that would draw more attention and seem more deliberate; therefore, I tried to recruit multiple people, and had them use pillows and blankets, set up near the entrance where most people would see.
Some of the project was vaguely inspired by the homelessness-related tactical media projects that were presented to us in class, namely the works of Wodiczko and Rakowitz. Though the underlying message differs from mine, it inspired the thought of playing with where people and certain daily activities belong, primarily sleeping. Usually, a single homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk doesn’t attract much attention and blends in; I wanted to put sleeping people in a context where they would be noticed.
Groups of people doing unusual things is fascinating to me, especially the happenings by Kaprow. While mine was less absurd, I was still inspired by his works and the public disruptions he and other Fluxus artists led.
While I wanted it to stand out, I was also wondering how much this intervention would blend in. I wanted to see at what point it does become unusual. I couldn’t get many people for mine, but someone was already sleeping when we arrived, which helped set the scene and almost made it feel more acceptable. The most common reaction would be someone staring as they walked past, or pairs of people staring, whispering something about it to each other, and moving on. The best part, however, happened at the end, when someone who works at the library approached. They stood by for a bit, looking concerned, before kneeling next to one of the participants, watching him, and then approaching me. They first asked if it was “protesting something,” which fascinated me, since in a way, we were, and it was interesting that someone would guess that just from people taking a nap on the floor. I felt like we were going to be asked to leave and we had already been there long enough, so I told them we would be leaving soon.
If I were to do this again, I would experiment with larger groups of people, inviting bystanders over, and/or putting up a sign that acknowledged the people sleeping to make it seem even more deliberate. Interventions generally have a social statement, and I would want to make one about college burnout more clear with other iterations.