Sophomore tackles sleep deprivation in ‘Liminal Spaces’

Photo courtesy of Olivia De Witt

Most people don’t think much about sleep; it’s a seemingly natural part of life.  But Eric Plant, a sophomore at the School of Cinematic Arts and aspiring Roski scholar, knows all too well about sleep, dreams and the fantasy worlds borne in the night.

On Aug. 25, the artist created an environment called “Liminal Spaces,” where reality met dreamscape. Inspired by personal experiences with insomnia and vivid dreams, Plant first decided to pursue the idea for the exhibit after discovering that many like them were going through the same things.

“I noticed that this was a trend, so I wanted to explore that more and what that feels like and hopefully capture that experience in a show,” Plant said.

They wanted visitors to be in a space that didn’t quite emulate slumber or consciousness but rather, a “surreal middleground” trapped between the two states, regardless of whether people have experienced similar sleep episodes. The exhibit began with a poem written by Plant and their friend Justice Schiappa. The two then formed the other pieces surrounding the poem, in collaboration with fellow USC students Evan Siegal, Reanna Cruz and Schiappa.

Within the installation, every  artist showcased identified was a person of color and/or identified as queer. Aside from the written poem, a multitude of mediums filled the space, including film, photographs and music. Each of Plant’s friends contributed to the pieces to create a surrealist world. The room was complete with floating pillows suspended over a bed, symbolizing the separation of mind and body in sleep. A hanging white sheet with a video of a girl smoking represented the state of being trapped in reality with the release (through smoking) of being asleep.

“I’ve always been into using  different mediums creatively,” Plant said. “When I do art, I don’t like to use one style only. For example, if I do photography, I like to incorporate a sculpture to go along with it. I think using various mediums at once and showing different dimensions of a subject makes a bigger impact on how you experience it.”

With strong use of primary colors as well as black and white elements throughout the installation, Plant transformed the depiction of sleep as a mundane act to a full-blown vivid dream. Yet, because of their sleep deprivation and insomnia, these aspects created a liminal space among people constantly on the brink of descending  into a dream state.

“I wanted to have the life of [a dream], but still keep it grounded in sleep,” Plant said. “Someone would recognize that there’s a strong presence of black and white yet also acknowledge that there is more life to it with the use of color in the space.”

With “Liminal Spaces,” Plant hopes viewers felt as if  they were elsewhere, suspended in limbo, while in the exhibition space.  

“I want to give people an experience that they typically don’t get, like a feeling of being trapped or like you can’t escape while in the midst of your attempt to sleep,” Plant said. “I think art installations are they best way to get an experience of different art mediums solidified in one place.”

An impressive and eye-opening showcase, “Liminal Spaces” displays Plant’s phenomenal grasp on the versatility of the human mind and the ethereality of both reality and dreams. Though the show was only open for one night, Plant plans to put on many more exhibitions throughout the year, and they hope to collaborate with other USC artists in the future.