The “Waking Incubator”: Exploring the Interface Between the Performing Arts and the Science of Sleep

By Jean S. Fleming, Rosemary Gibson, Brent Harris, Sally Morgan, Anne Noble, Karyn O’Keeffe, Anna Wirz-Justice, Sam Trubridge and Philippa Gander.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In early 2010 a diverse group of scientists and performance artists came together in Wellington, New Zealand, for a week of dialogue and collaboration on the topic of “Waking”. Following on from the successful production in 2008 of “Sleep/Wake”, by performance designer Sam Trubridge and chronobiologist Professor Philippa Gander, the Waking Incubator was designed to investigate the transition from sleeping to waking, from the multiple perspectives of dance, music, photography, film, sleep science, chronobiology and science communication. A diverse range of installations, performances and presentations were displayed in an Open Laboratory at the end of the week. The aim of the Open Laboratory was to engage the public in dialogue and to develop new ways of communicating sleep science. Although “The Two Cultures” still remain largely parallel today, the Waking Incubator began to blur the edges of what constitutes art and science. The artists transformed the science of sleep through their exploration of affective resonances of scientific processes and technologies, and the scientists became actors in their role of objective communicators. We conclude that such interactions increase the chance of meaningful conversations, stimulate respect for and interest in other disciplines and promote both creative art and science communication.

Keywords: Sleep, Waking, Chronobiology, Science-art Interaction, Performance Science, Science Communication, Practice Focus, Science Pedagogy

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.291-308. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.794MB).

Prof. Jean S. Fleming

Professor of Science Communication, The Centre for Science Communication, Division of Sciences, The University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Jean S Fleming ONZM is a Professor of Science Communication in the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication. She has 35 years of research experience as a biochemist, cell biologist and reproductive biologist and has taught Anatomy and Physiology at all tertiary levels since 1994. Jean convenes the Popularising Science stream of the Masters of Science Communication at the Centre. She is interested in worldwide best practice in science communication and the interaction of science and scientists with other world-views.

Rosemary Gibson

Sleep Psychologist, Sleep/Wake Research Centre, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Rosie Gibson has a background in Psychology (Plymouth University, UK). She trained as a clinical sleep technician in Bristol (UK) and is registered as a Polysomnographic Technologist (BRPT). Rosie joined the Sleep/Wake Research Centre in 2008 as a Masters student. Her research focuses on sleep across the lifespan, including the factors which affect infants sleep, and her current PhD project which concerns the sleep of older people with dementia and their caregivers.

Brent Harris

Performance artist, School of Art & Design, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand

Brent Harris’ research-practice works through performance art and dance. Performances engage with the relation of contemporary philosophical understandings of “the event” as that which exceeds understanding and anticipation, to the mode of knowledge and exchange. He has presented collaborative and solo work widely in New Zealand, and at the fifteenth Performance Studies international conference in Zagreb in 2009. He is a PhD candidate at AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand.

Prof. Sally Morgan

Pro-Vice Chancellor, College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Sally J Morgan studied fine art, specialising in painting at Sheffield College of Art, then the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp as a British Council/Flemish Ministry of Culture Post-Graduate Scholar. In the early eighties she was awarded a European Research Fellowship in Fine Art, hosted jointly by Exeter College of Art in England, and the Academy of the Visual Arts [Staedel Schule] in Frankfurt, Germany. She later studied History at Ruskin College, under the influential social historian Raphael Samuel. Sally has over fifty exhibitions to her name; presenting works across the world in venues such as London’s Institute of Contemporary Art [ICA], Bristol’s Arnolfini, and galleries in Germany, France, Switzerland and the USA. Her work is held in several collections and she has also been selected to represent contemporary British art in a number of international showcases. She has been the recipient of numerous artist’s grants, honoraria, and awards, and has been an independent reviewer for the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board’s Research Grants. Sally Morgan has a continuing studio practice and actively researches in, and through, the creative arts.

Prof. Anne Noble

Director of Research, College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Anne Noble is one of New Zealand’s most respected photographers. Her substantial body of work spans landscape, documentary and installations that incorporate both still and moving images. Since 2001, Anne has been researching and photographing Antarctica, exploring the cultural construction of place through imagination and depiction. In 2001 The NZ Dunedin Public Art Gallery curated a major retrospective of her work. The resulting exhibition States of Grace, toured New Zealand 2001 – 2003. In 2005 and 2006 her work featured in exhibitions at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, in Berlin and the Patio Herreriano in Spain. Anne’s series Ruby’s Room was exhibited at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris in 2007. In 2003, Anne was awarded a NZ Royal Society, Science and Technology Promotion Fund grant to lead Revisioning Science: Love and passion in the scientific imagination, a participatory photographic and life history research project. In 2003, she was also recognized in Queen’s Birthday Honours List with an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to photography in New Zealand.

Karyn O’Keeffe

Research Fellow, Sleep/Wake Research Centre, Massey University, Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Karyn is a registered Clinical Physiologist at the Sleep/Wake Research Centre, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. She has been involved in research investigating sleep at flight altitude, narcolepsy, sleep inertia, and insomnia. Karyn trains staff and Research Assistants in the finer points of sleep monitoring and also lectures in sleep physiology in a 200-level undergraduate course on sleep, circadian rhythms and shift work.

Prof. Anna Wirz-Justice

Head, Centre for Chronobiology, Psychiatric University Clinic, University of Basel, Switzerland

Anna Wirz-Justice’s research interests include human chronobiology and sleep regulation and light therapy for the treatment of depressive illness. In 2002 Anna was a consultant to Philippe Rahm and Jean-Gilles Décosterd in creating their light room in the Swiss Pavillion at the Venice Bienniale, Physiological Architecture.

Sam Trubridge

Performance Director, Sleep/Wake Research Centre, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Sam Trubridge trained at Elam School of Fine Arts, Slade School of Fine Arts (London), and completed his Master’s in Design at Massey University, Wellington. He directed and designed The Restaurant of Many Orders: an ‘international work in progress’ shown at Sadler’s Wells in London, Wellington, Auckland, Prague, Florence, Prato, and Rome. Prior to this he directed film and theatre in London and Auckland, such as the short film Mobiles (Raindance 2002), a short film The Harvest (Hiroshima Short Film Festival 2004), Henry V (Auckland’s 36th Summer Shakespeare), and The Tempest in Auckland’s Tepid Baths. He has published articles in Illusions (NZ), and Theatre Forum (USA). He currently lectures in Performance Design and Spatial Design at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts. He is the NZ editor for a three-volume publication World Scenography published in America for OISTAT. In 2007 he began working with Professor Philippa Gander and Massey’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre on Sleep/Wake. This arts-science performance project that has been presented in Wellington’s Print Factory venue in 2008, and in the 2009 Auckland Festival at Auckland’s Town Hall. It has also produced a range of other projects, including the Waking Arts/Science Incubator in 2010.

Prof. Philippa Gander

Director, Sleep/Wake Research Centre, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Professor Philippa Gander completed her doctorate in chronobiology (the study of biological clocks) at Auckland University in 1980, then moved to Harvard Medical School in Boston as a Senior Fulbright Fellow. In 1983 she was recruited to NASA Ames Research Centre in Mountain View, California, where she worked on circadian physiology, sleep, and fatigue and their consequences for aviation safety, and for manned exploration of the solar system. In 1996, a Repatriation Fellowship from the Health Research Council of NZ enabled her to return to establish the Sleep/Wake Research Centre, now at Massey University. Central to Philippa’s research is how the circadian biological clock drives body and brain function through daily cycles, and the consequences of working against these rhythms, for example in shift work and jet lag. Much of her work has an applied focus, developing scientifically-based strategies to minimize the health and safety risks associated with shift work and transmeridian flight. In November 2009, Philippa was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand for her innovative research on the science of sleep and fatigue risk management.