the hotel (sleep)


Memories are often attached to objects and spaces that surround us. The door handle, the chair, the wardrobe, the tap in the shower room... these objects we touch and live with become our intimate companions.

A hotel is a place that witnesses more people's stories than any other place. Every guest comes with his own expectations and leaves with his own memory. Yet a hotel is also a place where a great effort is being invested in erasing any indices of the past: Every time a new guest is welcome, the space is reset into a default state, pretending to be as new and pure as it ever was. The ever increasing layers of stories are being swept away every time the bed is made, every time the toiletries in the bathroom are rearranged into their default position.

During my stay at the Hotel, I kept a diary in the form of drawings. Every day I made one or more drawings. I did not limit myself in any way except for the size of the page, and one simple rule: The drawings should not be drawings from life, but drawings from mind. They should not relate to the view that is in front of my eyes while I am drawing, but they should relate to the image on my mind at the moment I am opening the notebook.

I used a notebook that included occasional reproductions of drawings from the Classic of Mountains and Seas (Shan Hai Ching), a classic Chinese text on early geography and mythical creatures. These reproductions localize the artwork in a Chinese context, where the recorded experience took place (the Hotel was located in China). The Classic of Mountains and Seas depicts the mysterious and unseen corners of the Middle Kingdom, while my drawings reflect life in the center of the Middle Kingdom today. The relation between the 'old' drawings and 'new' drawings is fluid. It is a set of associations referring to the relationship between the strange and the familiar, between recording and forgetting.

At the end of my stay at the Hotel, I used the resulting image-diary of the 134 days long stay as a source material for an installation in the bedroom and bathroom that were my temporary home. From the diary I selected drawings which I related to certain parts of my living space. I adjusted the size of the drawings and fixed them in the appropriate place. It was a way of telling the story of ideas activated in my mind when I looked at these places in the room.

In addition to the drawings the installation consisted of a time lapse video loop of one night I slept on the bathroom floor. The monitor showing the video was placed on the floor in the same location where the video was recorded. While the diary and the hanging of drawings represent traces of my thoughts and memories, the video represents the actual body - the territory where memories take place. It is an autobiographical element displaying a fragment of my actual life that would be nothing more than a private memory had it not been displayed.

Sleeping in the bathroom has been a practical reaction to the low quality build of the Hotel. Sounds passed through walls like through paper. I could hear not only the steps of my neighbors, but also their breathing at night, their own memories and stories that they told to loved one's on the phone. Without intent, I became a sonic voyeur of other people's lives. The bathroom, which separated by a double wall, provided a shelter from this constant flow of sonic percepts.

The grainy time-lapse recording of my sleep provides a visual form to the unintentional mutual eavesdropping I took part in. It serves to fill a gap - the silence - in between sounds my neighbors could hear from my room. It also refers to the gap between entering and leaving my room recorded by the surveillance cameras monitoring movement around public areas - it was only my room where surveillance cameras were absent. As I was opening up my room and exhibiting the memories it contained, I found it appropriate to extend the notion of a monitored space to my private room as well: Visitors were not only confronted with the space itself and the traces left behind, but they were also confronted with an evidence-like exhibit showing my sleeping body on site.