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London Fieldworks’ <Spacebaby> (2006) was performed as part of <Space Soon> at the Roundhouse in London in collaboration with the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester. The project explored themes of hibernation and suspended animation in the form of a performance installation and lab-in-action. Reference was made to the vested interest of space agencies around the possibility of human hibernation, and its fictional representation in the wider culture.

The artists inverted their sleeping patterns and slept within the installation during exhibition opening hours. In the context of <Spacebaby> a parallel was being drawn between the sleeping regimes of shiftworkers and astronauts. The laboratory installation was manned by a team of geneticists who examinined the effects of disrupted sleep upon whole genome, gene expression, with a particular interest in individuals undertaking shiftwork. Blood samples were periodically extracted from the artists and processed within the installation using Affymetrix gene chip Technology. The processing of the samples resulted in a series of images depicting the gene expression of disrupted sleep and were incorporated into a video work <Spacebaby: Guinea Pigs Don’t Dream>.

Working with the writer Ken Hollings and the acousmatic composer Dugal McKinnon, LFW used documentary footage of the <Spacebaby> performance, along with resulting data and additional footage shot of the artists in preparation at St. Thomas’ Hospital Sleep Lab, London. The film <Spacebaby: Guinea Pigs Don’t Dream> was premiered at Whitechapel Art Gallery, 4 June 2008.

The <Spacebaby> performance and installation at <Space Soon> was funded by Arts Council England and supported by AHRC, University of Leicester, Affymetrix and Ambion.

<Spacebaby: Guinea Pigs Don’t Dream> was Funded by Arts & Business (New Partners Award), AHRC and Arts Council England and sponsored by Affymextrix, Ambion, with collaborative support from Department of Genetics at University of Leicester.

All photography by Kristian Buus.

Selected projects & collaborations by Bruce Gilchrist © 2023