At the Edges of Sleep: Moving Images and Somnolent Spectators

Recipient of the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Book Grant

Shortlisted for the 2023 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards

Finalist for the 2023 ASAP Book Prize


Many recent works of contemporary art, performance, and film turn a spotlight on sleep, wresting it from the hidden, private spaces to which it is commonly relegated. At the Edges of Sleep considers sleep in film and moving image art as both a subject matter to explore onscreen and a state to induce in the audience. Far from negating action or meaning, sleep extends these into new territories as it designates ways of existing in the world. Defined positively, sleep also expands our understanding of reception beyond the binary of concentration and distraction. These possibilities converge in the work of Thai filmmaker and artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who has explored the subject of sleep systematically throughout his career. In examining Apichatpong’s work, Jean Ma brings together an array of interlocutors—from Freud to Proust, George Méliès to Tsai Ming-liang, Weegee to Warhol—to rethink moving images through the lens of sleep. Ma exposes an affinity between cinema, spectatorship, and sleep that dates to the earliest years of filmmaking, and sheds light upon the shifting cultural valences of sleep in the present moment.

University of California Press, 2022Luminos open source digital edition

© 2022 JEAN MA