Feodora Kaplan about the series of a young Austrian photographer Paul Schneggenburger “The sleep of the beloved” and the one who stands behind it

An Austrian photographer Paul Schneggenburger is known for his ongoing series “The sleep of the beloved”, which he started in 2010 as a graduation work at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

An obsessive desire to know, what’s going on while sleeping, and efforts to control it refer to the creative experiments of the Surrealists, while the method used by Schneggenburger carries on the tradition of static performance art, started by none other than legendary Andy Warhol. In 1963, he shot a video, documenting a poet John Giorno while sleeping for almost 5 hours and a half. Warhol’s “Sleep” is a concentration of a pure non-action experience, the daily practice of sleeping. On the contrary, in Schneggenburger’s work this pure duration collapses into a single moment in which, all of a sudden, precisely an action is captured or specifically – a dynamic interaction of two people, which is intended by the author to demonstrate their unconscious desires and emotions.

It is noteworthy, that the same gesture – an invitation to take a nap in one’s own bed – denoted the beginning of one more career. In 1979, Sophie Calle made her debut with a project “The Sleepers”. Voyeuristic tactics of her interaction with strangers together with the coherent multidimensional theme of her attitude towards the Other have become essential for the whole work of Sophie Calle. But if the famous French artist herself becomes an observer, thoroughly, hour after hour photographing the sleeping strangers and making notes, the young Austrian photographer entrusts this work to a neutral view of a camera, looking down from the ceiling and turning on and off automatically. Here the photographer plays the part of a stage designer and an absent director.

The photographer himself describes what he has seen by means of a camera as a dance, in which the whole spectrum of interpersonal relations is coming to light. Meanwhile visually the intricate tangles of spectral bodies in Schneggenburger’s images hint at a reunion of separated parts of Plato’s androgyne, and thus the series plays yet another chord in the eternal song of love.

The artist has already captured more than 80 pairs and is still ready to expand the project with new heroes.

“Dancers in the dark” series

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© Bleek Magazine. Text: Feodora Kaplan. Translation: Darya Kuznetsova. All the images: Paul Schneggenburge.