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«Labor of Sleep, Have you been able to change your habits??»
2017, Elisa Giardina Papa
Duration: 09:20
Courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art
Exhibition: 25. October — 24. November 2018
In her video piece "Labor of Sleep, Have you been able to change your habits??" Elisa Giardina Papa investigates the impact of digitalization on basic human needs such as sleep. Gathering data about our bodies has become a central part of our lives through smartphone apps that map our diet, exercise and menstrual cycle. Within this culture of relentless self-optimization, even the surveillance of sleeping habits becomes a sport – relaxation is now a matter of training, bad habits must be kicked and new techniques acquired.

Giardina Papa visualizes this imperative of efficient relaxation using a visual language reminiscent of Instagram ads. Some of the scenes are shot from above, the image composition and the combination of pastel colours carefully selected to reference current graphic design trends. Between the perfectly staged surfaces, a female computer voice offstage supplies instructions and commands, making the animated female protagonist increasingly uneasy. The chatbot is barely capable of responding to human emotional states, and the automated lawn mower is just as insensitive in relation to the plant arrangements in the short clips.
Is this a sign of the precarious relationship between humans and intelligent machines?