Sleep Disorders [2010-2012]

Sleep Disorders is a body of work that investigates the pathologisation of sleep through performance research.

Image credit: Vahri McKenzie and Hellen Russo, Fool Asleep, in Fringe World Festival 2012. Perth, Australia: The Treasury, 2012. Photograph by Lisa Carrie Goldberg.

Fool Asleep is a one-act play that used spoken text, original video and dance (choreographed by co-creator Hellen Russo) to present the complex relationship between a subject of a sleeping disorder and an examining sleep scientist, within a narrative frame. I wrote and performed the original script based on lay and scientific sleep science texts, which reframed scientific discourse and so questioned the assumptions that have rapidly created a new medical speciality. The work was performed at Fringe World Festival 2012, Perth, Australia: The Treasury; and for Strutathon, Fringe World Festival 2012, Perth, Australia: Perth Institute of Contemporary Art.

For the body of work collected as Design, Form, Light, Movement, with dancer Hellen Russo I created site-specific work focusing on the role of lighting design in dance. Our work asks, what is the connection between urban light and the surveillance gaze; how can work illustrate the invasiveness of surveillance technologies on the urban subject; how can urban lighting conditions affect the performance outcome? The ubiquity of CCTV in public spaces demands a compliance of individuals that reflects the relationship between subject and scientist.

Image credit: Vahri McKenzie and Hellen Russo (2011). City Sleepers (video still). Helen Herbertson & Ben Cobham Co/Lab. Perth, Australia: King Street Arts Centre.

Also See:
McKenzie, Vahri and Russo, Hellen (2011). City Sleepers.


McKenzie, Vahri and Russo, Hellen (2011). CCTV Sleepers.



Sleep Disorders enacted invented sleep pathologies, using performance art to explore scientific incursions that problematise a ‘natural’ state, and to interrogate tensions between sleep science and art. I made the work for Lisa Carrie Goldberg’s installation Perth Institute of Sleep Behaviour (2010) that recreated a sleep laboratory; Goldberg invited me to become a ‘subject’ in her lab and to respond with an original work after immersion in her process. I spent long periods of time within the installation, read medical literature and viewed authentic surveillance footage; surveillance of sleeping subjects is fundamental to sleep science. My performance within the installation was videoed in low resolution and posted on the internet, suggesting a troubling equivalence between genuine surveillance footage of sleep science subjects and work that ‘passes’ as such.

Image credit: Vahri McKenzie (2010). Sleep Disorders (video still). Lisa Carrie Goldberg’s Perth Institute of Sleep Behaviour. Perth, Australia: Perth Institute of Contemporary Art.

Also see:
McKenzie, Vahri (2010). Sleep Disorders: Nocturnal Wall Crawling and Rhythmic Somnographia.

This project was supported by:

  • Helen Herbertson and Ben Cobham’s Co/Lab, in partnership with Artrage, documented by Strutdance (2011).
  • Lisa Carrie Goldberg’s installation Perth Institute of Sleep Behaviour, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA, 2010).
  • Lisa Carrie Goldberg’s MA in Biological Arts at SymbioticA, University of Western Australia (2010).