The Art Museum at the U of T worked in collaboration with the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Canada to bring artists, historians, writers, and other professionals for a night of deconstructing the action of sleep.
Notable persons at the event include French ambassador Kareen Rispal, Princeton University professor Beatriz Colomina, and warden of Hart House John Monahan.
The event, entitled Night of Ideas: To Sleep or not to Sleep is an exhibition featuring works of art centred around the concept of sleep. A discussion was held to raise awareness of sleep politics. General inquiries regarding sleep were also answered.
Sometimes we remember them and sometimes they scare us; dreams are interesting thoughts to be analyzed and depicted by professors in differing fields. Wilfred Laurier English professor Ian MacRae discussed psychoanalysis of dreams, with a focus on the works of sociologist and philosopher Theodor Adorno.
Dr. MacRae shared Adorno’s methods of recording dreams and later finding meaning within them. Through his description of Adorno, Dr. MacRae highlighted the concept of censorship within dreams and posed the question of control in dreams for the audience to reflect upon. Jill Carter, an assistant professor of Drama and Indigenous Studies at U of T, explored dreams from the perspective of the indigenous community. Dr. Carter spoke of dreams as a gift from the creator that must not go unappreciated, as they go hand-in-hand with the gifts of understanding truth and justice. The conclusion of this discussion was that indigenous people must awaken from their dreams to pursue truth and justice within a oppressive colonialist society.
Next, U of T professor of comparative literature and philosophy, Rebecca Comay, gave her own interpretation of Sigmund Freud’s couch—a prop that Freud used while he was practicing hypnosis—as a place of understanding dreams. Dr. Comay then described the couch as a means to trigger speech from patients, since lying on the couch creates a familiar sleeping atmosphere for the patient. The main message, I think, that Dr. Comay was trying to convey is the obscurity of dreaming. Perhaps, dreams will always be a black hole for us, open to interpretation.
In the discussion of sleep, the views of cognitive and physiological effects of different amounts of sleep cycles were discussed. The majority of the panelists came to the unanimous conclusion that we need to sleep. Panelists also agreed that sleep deprivation ultimately has serious consequences.
Kenton Krocker from York University put sleep politics in the spotlight. Dr. Krocker gave a historical recount of encephalitis lethargica, a disease suffered by young children during the 1920s that lead to the disruption of sleep. This disease made children act out negatively. Dr. Krocker came to the conclusion that sleep is necessary for cognitive functioning.
Another topic discussed in sleep topics was how society affects the amount of sleep people get. This was spoken about mainly in the context of shift work. U of T professor Richard Horner stated that the World Health Organization has classified shift work as a possible carcinogen due to its effects of stress on our circadian rhythm. Recognizing sleep deprivation as harmful is crucial in moving towards a society that places more value on sleep. Christelle Peyron, from Centre de Research en Neurosciences de Lyon, informed listeners about quality versus quantity of sleep. Peyron explained that the more activity during the day results in deeper sleep and can, therefore, help one reach an optimal cognitive, physiological, and psychological state of functioning. While many distinguished and successful leaders claim to require less sleep, the panelists agreed that it is not a fact, and is meant for portraying themselves as higher functioning and mechanical in their way of achieving their goals. Everyone has different needs for sleep and it is necessary to obtain the right amount for your health.
The Night of Ideas ran from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. of the following day on January 25.