When you’re little, the magic of a sleepover is that all the normally forbidden activities – staying up until dawn, gorging on sweets and telling scary stories – are suddenly allowed. Once you’re an adult however, the thrill of saccharin-induced insomnia is not quite as appealing.
But at London’s Serpentine Gallery this weekend, a group of lucky gallery-goers rekindled the thrill of their first sleepover, as a collaboration between the Serpentine and the Victoria & Albert Museum allowed them to spend the night in the Jean Nouvel-designed pavilion.
Starting at the V&A’s Whiteley Scared Silver and Stained Glass Galleries, guests were treated to specially concocted cocktails from the Bombay Sapphire Twilight bar, guided tours of nearby exhibitions themed on twilight, and music from folk doyenne Laura Victoria.
We then hurried over to the Serpentine gallery, where a night of talks, films and workshops awaited us. Once equipped with sleeping bags and roll mats, participants started to nest inside Nouvel’s blood-red open structure that would become our bed for the night.
Psychoanalyst Darian Leader began the night’s events with a talk on sleep disorders, dreams and art. After learning that the meaning of dreams are often revealed in the tiniest, seemingly inconsequential details, we were presented with a trifle-based spectacular from jellymongers Bompass & Parr. The trick was to choose between a soporific pudding full of calming remedies or a similar treat filled with stimulants and garnished with a structure of cigarettes, to decide what kind of direction your night would take.
Filmmaker, artist and writer Heinz Emigholz took us through some illustrations inspired by his dreams and subconscious, a project that he has been working on since 1974. With deadpan German delivery, Emigholz gave us insight into his bizarre internal world, featuring troubling images of dogs ripping skin off a man’s face or his father jumping down from a baked potato.
Music from Sending Letters to the Sea and Dale Berning sent some off to sleep, whereas other stayed awake for Insomnia labs where scientists and professional insomniacs discussed the relationship between art and sleep deprivation – of which I would love to tell you more but the Bompass & Parr trifle took its toll.
I awoke to the rather unnerving sight of Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies, and was greeted with a breakfast of freshly made bread. While we’d all been sleeping – or engaged by the insomnia labs – the team at John Morgan Studio had stayed awake to create a pillow book to document the night. Filled with material contributed throughout the evening, each copy had been hand-made and embroidered with our own initials.
Although the sleep deprivation wasn’t quite as easy to get over as when I was nine, the experience was just as thrilling as the first childhood sleepover. Lets hope its success and the excitement caused by the unusual event encourages more museums and galleries to pull an all-nighter.