During the transition from sleep to waking, a glitch in the perception of our surroundings can happen, and the body can become stuck in an in-between space that seems to conflate different layers of reality - the actual, the conceptual, and the alternative. The experience of sleep paralysis usually lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes - during which a moment can feel like an eternity and one might experience the fluctuation and disruption of otherwise linear time.
What the eyes see can be ambiguous - distorted, hindered, enhanced or filtered, since the imagery the eyes receive is a reflection passing through different agents before making sense (or not) to us. For instance, we cannot stare into our own eyes except by means of some other medium, such as a mirror’s reflection or a camera lens. These experiences can be confusing, fascinating, or frightening during sleep paralysis, where the body goes through a temporary disconnection from our neural control. The consciousness struggles to escape from the‘flames’of instability and uncertainty.
Fire as a metaphorical subject is often associated with opposing connotations. It is both creation and destruction, revelation and concealment. “All that changes quickly is explained by fire. Fire is the ultra-living element. It is intimate and it is universal.” as Gaston Bachelard said. It is formless yet it is often depicted in pictorial forms. The experience of the disruption of perception and time - the instability and uncertainty from sleep paralysis bring up the‘fire’of fascination and fear, burning through the various layers of reality.
Mirror is embedded with symbols regarding realities, truth, the act of seeing (oneself) and cognition. The image we see in the mirror is distorted and reversed due to the nature of the material of the medium itself. Mirrors possess the structure of a frame, which resembles a window or a traditional painting. The frame carries the gesture of inviting us to see what is concealed and what is revealed, what is concrete and realistic, and what is formless and abstract. It invites us to look into ourselves and the image within the image. The eye sees the reflection of different possible realities while the eye itself is a medium of reflection. Realities are abstracted into visual forms.
Sihan Yang (b.1994, China) received her BA in Visual Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong and she is now studying for her MA degree in Fine Art at Iceland University of the Arts. Her video installations, drawings, sound, mixed-media works often take interests in time, realities and the in-between state.