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The story came to my mind when I saw the inadequacy of the parliament and from this sentence: “Let others think, we feign sleep.” My thoughts were never separated from the social and political daily issues, and even if I wanted, I couldn’t close my eyes to those things. My question was, with the tools I had, the art, how can I speak up my thoughts to face my country’s current inadequacies.

     After months of thinking, talking and consulting, I decided to make a video. As all of the friends believed making a personal performance against parliament wouldn’t allow me to continue my artistic life, and it would be better to express my protest in another way. A protest against the injustice and inadequacy of those who just filled the seats of the parliament in the name of representing a nation and nothing else. I don’t know if it was a logical and correct decision or it was because of fear and anxiety I had, that I replaced making video as performance.

     This video contains seven locations, in each you can see people who seems to be asleep, and during the film it would never be clear whether they are really sleeping, dreaming or feigning sleep. The question I wanted to confront my audience with the reason.

     Zolpidem is a hypnotic, non-benzodiazepine and fast-acting drug which is very effective for anxiety reduction and insomnia. Among sleeping pills, Zolpidem has the fastest onset of action. One of the side effects of zolpidem, if overdosed, includes the loss of consciousness while the drug is working and even self-harm, and the other is that after returning to normal situation the user doesn’t remember what he did. The WHO classifies this drug as a psychedelic because it has been shown hallucinogenic and intoxicating effects on some people.

     That’s why I substituted the name Zolpidem for the former name to metaphorically and indirectly talk about a situation that its effects on one’s personal and social consciousness in an authoritarian society are something similar to the uses of a hypnotic drug such as Zolpidem.

     Beside this video, while being on the screen at Sheila Gallery, I performed a performance that complemented my position as an artist in an art gallery. For three days, being aware of the dangers of taking this pill, I started taking it in front of the audience and fell asleep. The gallery was full of beds and Zolpidem pills provided to fall asleep. But it was up to the audience to choose what to face in that atmosphere. To accept and get along with it or to protest against it? Many of the audiences took the pills and fell asleep or took the pills to take it outside of the gallery. Some tried to pick the mattresses or wrote letters about their presence during my sleep. Only one night, in the last hours of worktime, an audience decided to wake me up, after watching all the circumstances during the performance.

Razieh Aarabi