SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
“See You in My Dreams” was an iterative series of digitally-connected durational bedtime story hours between Beijing (led by visual performance artist Shen Bolun) and Detroit (led by experimental physical performance ensemble The Hinterlands (Liza Bielby, Richard Newman, Renee Willoughby)). In the work, Detroit artists read daily US news propaganda about China to Beijing counterparts as they fell asleep, and Detroit artists fell asleep twelve hours later to Chinese partners reading Chinese news propaganda about the US. Sessions were held in performers’ homes in Beijing and Detroit, and in a public iteration at Discount Mattress (Detroit) and hosted by TGIS (Beijing) .
The project unites a body of research by The Hinterlands called “The Enemy of My Enemy,” a hybrid digital / live performance project simultaneously linking performers and audiences in the US and our so-called “enemy” nations of China, Russia, and Iran to explore nationalism, enmity, and the Internet as an experiential “third space” for 21st century performance, with a series of separate performance works by Shen Bolun looking at sleep, time, and history-telling. We met each other through the magic of Airbnb, when Liza Bielby of The Hinterlands was traveling through Beijing in spring of 2019. In the listing of his apartment, Shen Bolun included an offer for guests to participate in his project documenting sleepers via time-lapse photography, and we knew we had a collaboration made in heaven. Linking the two projects, we found that bedtime stories offered a format to explore the twelve-to-thirteen-hour time difference splitting China and the eastern United States, the difficulty of creating intimacy over digital platforms, and the ubiquitousness of alarmist news propaganda about US-China relations in both our country’s media at the time of our meeting. In our first reading, Shen Bolun fell asleep in Beijing to Richard Newman of The Hinterlands in Detroit softly reading New York Times articles about the trade war over Skype. The encounter was live-streamed via Periscope by Bielby from the Beijing apartment.
In the project, sleepers are encouraged to really fall asleep, creating a moment of vulnerability, both to our partner abroad (whom, in most cases, we’ve never met outside of the internet), and to the messaging we’re hearing from the foreign media. We’ve convened “See You in My Dreams” four times over the last year. There have been fever dreams, sleepless sessions, watch parties in a hutong in Beijing, censorship by Wechat, and moments of uncontrollable laughter.