| Tanya Ashreena |
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – As night settles over India’s capital, a dozen volunteers lie ensconced in soundproof cubicle tents, playing soothing music via Skype to try and lull to sleep collaborators in a German city halfway across the world.
In one such makeshift bedroom, participants are asked to recline with their eyes shut while engaging in simultaneous role play with a partner in Berlin, imagining scenarios such as being marooned on a mountain peak.
After about an hour, each participant moves on to another sleep chamber with a different set of tasks in an Indo-German project that explores shared experiences in an increasingly connected world.
Many attendees fall asleep and are woken when their time is up.
“Sleep Hotel” is the final act of “Downtime”, a curated performance event over two weekends that revolves around human slumber, controlled dreams and diverse sleep patterns.
Project director Amitesh Grover, a new media artist, said he drew inspiration from conversations with sleep experts and therapists about the human need for eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye, and discovering that the concept was “largely a post-industrialist phenomenon.”
“The way we experience sleep has changed over the last 800 years, and this gave us the idea to experiment,” said Grover, who created three performance events with his German counterpart and invited volunteers to sign up for the experience.
“I prefer ordinary people, or users, to discover our theatre by immersing themselves in it,” he said.
On the first weekend, attendees in New Delhi and Berlin were invited to swap beds in a “Sleep Surfing” event with a fellow participant in the same city.
“It has definitely got me thinking about sleeping, which otherwise is an activity you do every single day, without much thought,” said Nikita Sarkar, 22, a student of theatre in Delhi.
In a separate “Sleep Walk” segment, a local guide took volunteers to a railway bridge across a Delhi river to observe homeless men dozing in improvised beds beside the girders.
About 150 participants took part in “Downtime” events in Delhi and Berlin over the last two weekends, and Grover is planning a bigger sleep project in the coming year.
“I hope, after this performance, people will have a different perspective on sleep,” he said.