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Cover for At the Edges of Sleep

At the Edges of Sleep

Moving Images and Somnolent Spectators

Jean Ma


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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 into new territories as it designates ways of existing in the world, in relation to people, places, and the past. 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, 9780520384514, 280pp.

Publication Date: October 4, 2022

About the Author

Jean Ma is the author of Melancholy Drift: Marking Time in Chinese Cinema and Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema. She is the Victoria and Roger Sant Professor in Art in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University.