What is it about sleepovers? About lying down next to other people and whispering in the drowsy dark of night or early morning? About dreaming alongside each other? "The times right before we went to sleep and when we woke up—we were really vulnerable then," Susan Robb says about the experience of a three-day walk with 40 people—The Long Walk—that she co-led as a piece of public art this summer. It inspired her new project, Sleeper Cells.
"Those moments were powerful but sleepy—not powerful like 'We're gonna do it!' but with this low-energy potential, and I thought, what is it that makes little kids want to sleep over at each other's houses? What makes us still want to sleep next to each other as adults?"
Online, she found an open-source design for a refugee-camp shelter made of insulation foam board and tape. Her plan is to make several of these for an event called Sleeper Cells, to be held at Open Satellite in Bellevue in December. This month's 21-and-over pre-event (called Sleeper Cell Training Camp) at Art Stable in South Lake Union will be sans shelters—you'll just bring a sleeping bag and pillow and find a place on the floor in the new building of upscale condos for art collectors. The event costs $40, in an attempt to raise funds to build the cells for the later event. And after that, the shelters will be donated to Tent City.
Robb sees this night as an example of "good terrorism," the spreading of a seed based on an open-source design and an open-ended idea: a collective dream. "I really want to use dreams as a material to make art from, to create a social sculpture out of dreaming," Robb says. "What would happen if we all tried to dream something? And what if you can't tell whether you made it or not—that's also part of what art is about. You have to believe in it. You have to believe that it exists."
Sleeper Cells is part new age and part sci-fi; it has connotations both light and dark, like all collective fictions. The action of the night will include sound artists, DJs, foods and techniques that promote vivid/memorable dreaming, and the "setting of intentions" before going to sleep—and then the teasing-it-out-via-group-discussion in the morning. (Snacks, cocktails, and continental breakfast will be provided.) "Tactical dreaming," Robb calls it. And "ironic squatting," given the number of people who actually have no homes, which is why the end product will be a donation to Tent City. "I'm not daft," she says. "For this project about housing refugees to take place in a building meant for art collectors—in order to dream, you need to be safe."
Sleeper Cell Training Camp, Sat–Sun Oct 23–24, Art Stable, 9 pm–10 am, $40, 21+.