Dreaming with the Zeitgeber, Part I: A Lecture on Moderns and Their Night

  • Stefan Morales The Wayward School


How awake are we during the day, and how asleep are we during the night? What are the implications of having become delinked from the Zeitgeber ("time giver") of terrestrial day and night through the invention and proliferation of electric light? This paper explores the division between industrial and pre-industrial times, not by underscoring the importance of the factory or the steam engine, but by taking an object lesson from the light bulb: elaborating on the bio-physio-political influences that electric light has had on our night and daytime experience. The paper explores the why and how of dreamtime exploration within a field of practice tightly circumscribed by everyday electric light, seeking to begin elaborating the outlines of a sleep practice geared towards realigning secular individualism with the unchanging Zeitgeber as a lost cue to quasi-religious experiences.

The paper is based on a lecture and workshop that took place during the OFF LABEL Festival and The Art of the Placebo at Open Space in Victoria, BC from October 26 to November 2, 2011. Following the first lecture, participants were enrolled in three subsequent "dream-share" workshops to share nighttime journeys and experiences and encourage one another's dreamtime practice. The lecture itself was a performance: no lights were turned on, allowing the natural light to imperceptibly shift from daytime to nighttime. "Dreaming with the Zeitgeber Part II" (forthcoming) deals with the implications sleep-practice has on the micropolitics of everyday life.