Sleeping Eyes

Sleeping Eyes by Noon (Sojung Bahng and Sungeun Lee)

This interactive VR piece reconstructs the experiences and dreams of a Korean artist (Josef Sungeun Lee) suffering from narcolepsy. He didn’t know that he had narcolepsy until he returned from military service (2 years of military service is mandatory in South Korea for almost every man, but narcolepsy patients are excluded). He had to deal with violence and oppression from groups that required specific norms and order, such as high school and the army. His memories of violence were internalized in his unconsciousness and projected into his dreams and art. 

The work uses VR, which reminds the viewer of the fundamental characteristics of dreams and invites audiences to engage in his unconscious dream world. A biometric sensor is applied to help audiences understand and experience uncontrollable neurological disorder. The work aims to elicit the reflexive understanding of narcolepsy, which is not well known to our society and encourages critical reflection on objectified, violent perceptions based on social ignorance about neurological disorders.

We used quantum mechanical metaphors to poetically represent Sungeun’s narcoleptic states. When Sungeun explains his narcolepsy symptoms, he often describes quantum mechanical superposed states. He exists in a dream and reality simultaneously, and this superposition is collapsed when he observes his thoughts, or when other people watch over him. This draws a parallel with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which it is postulated that observation collapses the probability wave function. Physicist Nina Rajcic advised the story design in order to apply the quantum mechanics metaphors accurately. These kinds of superposed states and the duality of embodiment/disembodiment in the virtual and physical worlds resonate with each other, so we actively used the tension or collapse between virtual and physical embodiment to deliver Sungeun’s confusions.

In VR, even if we could embody another person’s perspective, our own bodies are lost. The more and more we embody the virtual body, the more and more we are alienated from the physical body. The virtual body and physical body cannot be perfectly synchronized. However, the gaps that exist can be a catalyst for the re-embodiment and reconstruction of our physical experiences to extend our physical boundaries and consciousness. In this project, we used this duality of embodiment in VR to make people physically interconnect with the experience of a narcoleptic artist, as well as reflect on their own perceptions of the boundary between subjectivity and objectivity, dreaming and reality, and virtuality and physicality.

  • Based on Sungeun Lee’s story
  • Directed by Noon (Sojung Bahng and Sungeun Lee)
  • Sound and Music by Jinjah
  • VR Technical Director Aiden Hatcher
  • Physics Advisor Nina Rajcic
  • Software Engineer Elliott Wilson
  • Supervised by Jon McCormack and Vince Dziekan
  • Produced and Supported by SensiLab and Artengine

This is project is work in progress