Exploring the Dark Self
Susan Aldworth, Michael White, Miles Whittington

©The Dark Self 2, monoprint, Susan Aldworth, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist
  • Saturday 17 June 2017, 12.30PM to 6.30pm
  • Free admission
    Booking required- 2.30pm to 3.30pm (Discussion), 12.30pm to 6.30pm (Installation - no ticket required)
  • 3Sixty and the RCH/037, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York (map|getting to campus)
  • Wheelchair accessible

Event details

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Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2)

What can we know about deep sleep? What is it about the brain’s sleep-associated activities that are so ‘secret’ they demand we remain unaware of them? What happens to the ‘self’ in the dark time of sleep when the brain is in a state of high function?

Join us for an immersive audiovisual installation and discussion exploring the challenges of visualising deep sleep.  The installation by artist Susan Aldworth - which can be viewed before or after the discussion - explores the different aspects of sleep that occur every night. Each of these is critically important in keeping us healthy and happy in our working lives.

Susan has spent much of her career exploring the complex relationship between the physical brain and our sense of self. The installation is part of The Dark Self project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, which has offered her an intriguing new challenge - how an artist might make the experience of nothingness substantial.

For the discussion, Susan is joined by neuroscientist Miles Whittington of the Hull York Medical School and art historian Michael White of the University of York.

We spend a third of our lives asleep and during that time – except for brief periods of wakefulness and recalled dreaming - we are completely unaware of ourselves and our surroundings. However, hear how science has shown that in deep sleep our brains are just as active as when we are awake. You’ll find out from our speakers how art can act as a catalyst in bringing together both scientific and art historical ideas in an innovative way.

This event is supported by the Wellcome Trust

About the speakers

Susan Aldworth is the Wellcome Artist in Residence at the University of York. Susan is an experimental printmaker and filmmaker referencing philosophy, medicine, and neuroscience in her work exploring human identity. Working on location in a medical or scientific academic department is central to her practice. She was previously Artist in Residence at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University from 2009 to 2012 and has also curated a number of exhibitions including Reassembling the Self in 2012. 

Professor Michael White is Head of History of Art at the University of York and works chiefly on the interwar avant-gardes. He wrote his doctoral thesis on Theo van Doesburg and has a special interest in De Stijl and modernism in the Netherlands. He was consultant curator of the 2010 Tate Modern exhibition Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde: Constructing a New World, advised the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag on the display of its permanent Mondrian and De Stijl collections, and was the external curator of the exhibition Mondrian and his Studios at Tate Liverpool in 2014 as featured on the BBC.

Michael is also the author of Generation Dada: The Berlin Avant-Garde and the First World War (Yale University Press, 2013) and the co-editor of Virgin Microbe: Essays on Dada (Northwestern University Press, 2013). The dual interests he has in abstraction and Dada are informing his latest research projects.

Professor Miles Whittington is Chair of Neuroscience at the Hull York Medical School (HYMS). His research aims to bridge a gap between the electrical activity of groups of nerve cells in the brain and the way we interpret sensory cues, form memories, make decisions and generate outputs (movement, speech etc.).

Miles’ interests lie in understanding how brain rhythms are generated and what their function may be with particular reference to the overt differences between the human wake-state and deep (non-dreaming) sleep. He is the author of several books and over 140 papers on these subjects, more recently concentrating on why sleep is so fundamentally essential to normal brain function and health in general: Pathology, manifest in sleep-associated brain rhythms, is associated with profound deficits in cognitive function (our ability to learn, remember and understand the world around us).

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