The Dark Self

York St Mary’s
7 June – 3 September 2017

In The Dark Self Susan Aldworth challenges us to reflect upon our nightly transitions from consciousness to oblivion. The pillowcase is a recurring motif throughout this exhibition. We lay our head on it to sleep: it contains the experience of sleep, the falling asleep and the waking up; it is transformed by our movements during sleep. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the immersive 1001 Nights installation of embroidered pillowcases depicting the sleep stories and dreams of 414 embroiderers which fills the nave of York St Mary’s. Other works include her moving image piece Dormez –vous?, and a series of monoprints made from vintage pillowcases where the folds and creases of the pillow speak both of the struggle to sleep and the sinking into it. Finally, the Evidence of Sleep sculptures present the indentation of a sleeper’s head in porcelain and plaster, hard unyielding materials that contrasts with the soft and giving quality of a pillow. The sleeper is absent; the indentation is a negative space; and the work begins a dialogue about the unconscious state of deep sleep.

We spend a third of our lives asleep and during that time we are completely unaware of ourselves and our surroundings. What is the evidence of sleep when even the person sleeping cannot give a full account of it? I fixed on the indentation of a sleeper’s head on the pillow to make the nothingness of sleep substantial.