Woman in a coffin: Spooky Sleeping Beauty installation in Brighton Basement

By Ben Miller | 17 September 2013

Installation preview: Sleeping Beauty, The Basement, Brighton, until September 19 2013

A photo of a female dancer lying in a kind of coffin structure covered in purple lights
© Amelie Landry
In a specially-built double-glazed coffin at the centre of a smokey underground gallery, French dancer Sandra Devaux is being monitored using electroencephalography – a way of recording brain activity, carried out here via a headset carrying 18 electrodes.

Lying almost naked for two hours twice a day, she moves and reacts to the eerie stimuli of her tomb. Resembling a luminous corpse, her emotions are charted through graphs pulsing in the darkness. Her only method of communication is Facebook.

“I am always waiting for the messages, because otherwise I might fall asleep,” she confides.

“We would like to have more exchanges with people, and I can answer through emotions. People want to send me music.

“Sometimes when nothing happens you can provoke actions with your heart and mind. I can do nothing, or if I move my muscles very quickly or my heart accelerates I can change things.”

When people poke her - online, rather than in person, of course - a strobe light flashes and the sound of a defibrillator reverberates. “The idea is she’s really enclosed,” muses Gael L, a self-confessed Facebook addict who forms Le Clair Obscur with co-creator Frédéric Deslias.

“She can’t hear us – there’s no direct contact. Some people say it has a creepy feeling, and that kind of emotion is ok. We are not critics. We ask questions.”

The immersion certainly has an unsettling edge, but its balletic quietude has a supernatural, mesmeric allure which, says Gael, is particularly hypnotic to the young.

“Some people are afraid, but children are not afraid at all. It’s really nice to hear them communicating with it.

“We want people to have emotions. We think a lot about that.”

“It’s relaxing because you have no idea of the time, you have no idea who is here,” adds Devaux, who uses computer replications of tunnels and cubes to try and strengthen her mind power.

“I try to push and pull. Sometimes I want to answer a particular feeling, but it may or may not work.

“When you begin to use these toys you want to have more. I am the master, so I have to control everything - I’ve learnt a lot about my brain.”

More pictures:

A photo of a coffin-like cylinder glowing purple and white against darkness
© Annliz Bonin
A photo of a glowing blue cylinder against darkness
© Jean Marc Dronet
A photo of a dark blue cylinder against black
© Mathieu Lion
A photo of a coffin-like cylinder glowing purple and white against darkness
© Annliz Bonin
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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