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Slow Wave: Seeing Sleep

In 1951, Eugene Aserinsky was a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Late one night in his lab, he attached a brain-wave machine to his 8-year-old son and waited for him to fall asleep. Monitoring from an adjacent room, Aserinsky noticed that the machine tracking his son’s eye movements indicated that the boy was awake and looking around, but when he went to check on him he found him fast asleep. So began the discovery of REM, the stage of sleep categorized by rapid eye movements, when brain waves increase to levels experienced when a person is awake.

Sleep researchers have learned much about the stages of sleep since Aserinsky and his advisor Nathaniel Kleitman first published their study in 1953, but many mysteries remain. Named for the delta waves that the brain exhibits during deep sleep, Slow Wave: Seeing Sleep is a multidisciplinary event that will present installations, films, music, and workshops on the topic of sleep this weekend at RPI’s Empac.

The exhibition component of the event comprises work by seven different artists that can be found in various locations throughout Empac. In the lobby will be two sculptures by Jennifer Hall called Epileptiforms: 5 REM. The pieces, one in resin and one in sliver, are 3-D renderings of her seizure activity during REM.

In a room off the lobby will be a video by Rodney Graham called Halcion Sleep. In this piece, the artist, who has taken the sleep aid and sedative Halcion, tries to relive the pleasant feeling of falling asleep in the back of the car as a child.

On the mezzanine will be a commissioned video work by the psychiatrist J. Allan Hobson called Hidden Landscapes, The Time-Lapse Sleep photography of Ted Spagna. It was through Spagna’s photographs that Hobson noticed a correlation between body positions and the stages of sleep.

Also on the mezzanine will be Fernando Orellana’s and Brendan Burns’s Sleep Waking, a small robot that acts out brainwave activity recorded during REM.

On the fourth floor will be Ana Rewakowicz’s A Modern Day Nomad Who Moves as She Pleases. This piece is a “sleeping bag dress cylinder” in which people can enter and watch a video showing interviews with people who have actually spent the night in it.

Projected outside of Studio 2 will be Pierre Huyghe’s Sleeptalking which is a response to Andy Warhol’s legendary 1963 film Sleep. In Huyghe’s piece, the poet John Giorno, who is the subject of the Warhol film, reminisces about the experience.

Warhol’s Sleep is also part of the exhibition, but it will not be shown until 10:30 PM on Saturday night, when a sleepover will get underway in Studio 2. The sleepover is open to anyone, but you have to sign up in advance as space is limited. You can reserve a space by e-mailing John Cook at Those who will not be sleeping over can stay until midnight.

Other events on Saturday include lullabies played simultaneously, a workshop on polysomnography, Alvin Lucier’s Music for Solo Performer, and a screening of Richard Linklater’s Waking Life.

Given the dynamic nature of this event, it’s unlikely that it will be a snoozer.

Slow Wave: Seeing Sleep is a three-day festival on the art and science of sleep at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy). It starts tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 25) with the official opening from 5 to 7 PM, which is free. It continues Saturday (Sept. 26) from noon to midnight; admission is $15 for the general public, $10 for RPI faculty and staff, and $5 for seniors and students. It concludes Sunday (Sept. 27) from 11 AM to 2 PM. For more info, call 276-4135; for a complete schedule, visit

—Nadine Wasserman

Grizzly Bear

Lately, Brooklyn indie maestros Grizzly Bear have become something of a hipster punchline. But not in a Grizzly-Bear-sucks sort of way. Far from it. It’s more like a, his-glasses-are-so-big-and-his-pants-are-so-tight-he-must-listen-to-Grizzly Bear sort of thing.

Which, in a way, is kind of endearing. After all, the band’s spring release Veckatimest has been called the coolest thing since the mesh tanktop by everyone from Pitchfork to Jay-Z. And rightfully so. Full of lush harmonies and ornate orchestration, the disc delivers on the band’s promise of baroque ‘n roll, dating back to their 2006 breakout Yellow House that got everyone talking about how cool it was that rock bands sounded like the Beach Boys again. It’s the kind of work that makes critics expound about the art of the album in the iTunes era, and inspires fans to create beautiful unsolicited music videos for the sheer love.

Here’s betting there will be plenty of big glasses, tight jeans and mesh tanktops tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 25) at 8 PM when Grizzly Bear roll into the Skidmore College Sports and Recreation Center (Saratoga Springs) with Gang Gang Dance in tow. Tickets are $20. Call (800) 838-3006 for more info.

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