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Exhibition - Sleeping and dreaming

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Ruth Slavid dreamwalks through ‘Sleeping and Dreaming’

Until 9 March 2008, at the Wellcome Collection, London. www.wellcomecollection.org

Mobile homes vary in their degree of luxury, but few are as basic as the one designed by artist Krzysztof Wodiczko in association with the homeless of New York. Called simply ‘Homeless Vehicle’, it is like a cross between a rocket and a supermarket trolley. Inside there is a rudimentary bed, allowing the homeless to push their belongings around all day and then have somewhere to sleep at night.

This is one of the central exhibits of ‘Sleeping and Dreaming’, the second temporary exhibition at the Wellcome Collection’s new building in Euston, London. Designed by Nikolaus Hirsch of German architect Wandel Hoefer Lorch + Hirsch, the exhibition is straightforward to navigate while echoing the unreal and surprising nature of sleep. Black walls and low lighting contrast with shiny white partitions, signalling the way through to concealed alcoves on to which one stumbles, so that the experience is not predictable. In collaboration with the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, Germany, where it was first shown, the design has adapted well from a rather square space in Dresden to a much longer and thinner gallery in London.

One unusual aspect of the exhibition, particularly for a scientific institution, is that it combines scientific approaches with art and sociology. Experiments in sleep deprivation and sleep disturbance lie alongside photographs by Catherine Yass representing dream states, and paintings by Jane Gifford, who documented her dreams over a period of 144 days. Photographs of sleeping Japanese politicians (where public snoozes are socially acceptable) are accompanied by special napping cushions, spookily formed in the shape of half a stuffed shirt or a woman’s lap.

All that’s missing in this enticing exhibition is a sofa on which to drop off and dream.

Resume: Ruth Slavid nearly dozes off at ‘Sleeping and Dreaming’, but in the end it’s too interesting to be a snore

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