Sleeping Eyes

Sleeping Eyes by Noon (Sojung Bahng and Sungeun Lee)

Sleeping Eyes is an interactive cinematic VR piece that tells the story of a narcoleptic Korean artist Sungeun Lee. In Sleeping Eyes, VR was used as a medium to represent the symptoms of narcolepsy and provoke fundamental reflections on the boundary between dreams and reality. Non-linear narrative and gamification techniques were applied to make the viewers actively explore the story; episodes are represented in the VR piece. We also utilised a heart-rate sensor to visualise the viewer’s stress states and make them aware of their own feelings about the artwork.

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

Sleeping Eyes was exhibited at Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney (TEI 2020 Conference).

Sleeping Eyes won the award of excellence in experience design at the Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories (FIVARS) in 2020.

The work was also selected for the 2021 Animae Caribe International Animation & Digital Media Festival in Trinidad and the 2021 Varese International Film Festival (VIFF) in Italy.