Sleep, Ultimate Refuge

Berlin, 2021-2022

Sound Installation Based on Interviews.

Sleep, Ultimate Refuge is the main artwork produced during my 6-months residency in Berlin between October 2021 and March 2022, hosted by the program Fresh-AIR.
It consists of a sound piece broadcast in a small fabric booth integrated into an installation representing a birch forest.

The sound piece is available for listening as well as the interviews featured as podcasts.

Duration : 1:30:00



When we think about the questions raised by the theme of migration, we rarely think about the notion of sleep. Yet it is a fundamental subject in my view, raising many questions of a philosophical or political nature. Moreover, the experience of migration has an immense impact on sleep, whether in the sense of a great lack of sleep or the opposite.

Let’s think first of all about migratory birds. They travel thousands of kilometres each year to reach regions with a more welcoming climate. These birds, depending on the species, have developed impressive faculties so that they no longer need to sleep during the journey. For example, the Swainson’s Thrush sleeps with only one eye and rests only one brain hemisphere at a time. The White-throated Sparrow, on the other hand, can stay awake for seven days in a row without sleeping at all. What about the sleep of humans, who do not have the same capacities, in a context of displacement and migration? What impact does this natural constraint, which is widely experienced as a handicap in today’s societies (sleep as a waste of time), have on the journey and lives of people in migration? 

Behind the idea of migration is the idea of finding a better place to live. For some it is even a question of fleeing war, of finding a refuge. But sleep can be a real refuge. Most people can testify to the more or less profound experience of sinking temporarily into sleep to escape the reality of their daily life. In Sweden, there is a phenomenon of this kind which only concerns migrants and which is quite remarkable because it is extreme: the Resignation Syndrome. This very rare but yet scientifically identified syndrome, which could have been called Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, only affects the children of asylum seekers whose application has been rejected. These children, who can no longer bear to face the reality of their existence, gradually sink into a sleep of several months, or even years, so deep that it is assimilated to a coma and generally only wake up when the good news of the improvement in their parents’ administrative situation intervenes. In this case, sleep becomes both an absolute refuge and a means of fighting against fatality. And the proof is, sometimes the migration office changes its judgement in view of the situation of the family affected by this syndrome. 

It is therefore clear that the question of sleep is not an incidental issue. It plays a central role and is a very fragile force.

Moreover, in our modern societies, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many people to find sleep. More and more people are listening to podcasts to fall asleep, like a child who is told a story before going to bed, or even listen to videos in ASMR where the tenfold increase in the sound of insignificant things causes great relaxation and therefore falling asleep.

I am going to draw inspiration from these two practices for the realization of the work resulting from the project “Sleep, The Ultimate Refuge” and create a sound piece, ideally broadcast on the radio waves in the middle of the night, or in the form of podcasts that can be downloaded and listened to at any time.


Creation Process

The 6 months period of residence has been divided in 3 phases : first, getting in contact with the potential contributors, then recording the interviews, and finally edition of the sounds in order to get ready before begining of March when the exhibition was planned.

To get in contact with persons who would be interested to join the project, I wrote an Invitation Letter that was sent on social media (to read the letter, click here)

A tiny recording booth was settled in my studio in order to make the sound recordings as clear as possible, especially to avoid echo.

The participants came to the studio and opened up in front of me and my microphone. They witnessed the feeling of comfort they felt by speaking “sheltered” in the booth.

After the recording period was done, we transferred the booth to the exhibition hall. We rebuilted it identically, incorporated in a wooden installation recalling a birch tree forest in order to emphasis the idea of shelter.

The sound piece was displayed in the booth through pillow-speakers that featured the sound in a very low level. The audience had to get his hears toward a pillow in order to hear the sound. Some took a rest by the way.

Studio Address

De Geersgatan 32
68260 Lesjöfors