Otago was a thirty-hour residency that took place in a chalet in Carona, Val Brembana, northern Italy. The aim of the residency was to experience polyphasic sleep, spending five sleep cycles (two hours asleep and four hours awake per cycle) in a collective, but secluded, environment.
Each participant was asked to take turns organizing a three hour, communal activity for rest of the group during the periods of consciousness. Otago was conceived by Mattia Paje, developed and organized with Riccardo Sala and run collectively with the participants.
All the objects and movable elements of the chalet are shifted from their original position by the group. The interior and exterior space of the chalet is chaotic and surreal. Caribbean music is playing from the stereo. Everything is turned upside down. The space is subverted. We leave the house and start walking into the dark woods. Upon returning only some of the objects are put back to their original positions. Melania asks Stella to read us “I cristalli” by Italo Calvino as a bedtime story.
The second activity takes place on the chalet’s balcony where participants appreciate views of the Val Brembana mountains. Marina asks the participants to take turns performing still images with their bodies. The rest of the group is encouraged to make adjustments and discuss the scene. The resultant poses remind us of different visual sources and raise a variety of topics. Participants switch roles until everyone has their turn. Marina pulls out a vial and asks the participants to taste something mysterious. Somebody agrees. She asks the group to continue with the ‘tableaux vivant’ activity, focusing their attention on what’s changed.
We trek to a beautiful spot near a river: this is how paradise ought to look. Somebody is chatting sitting on the rocks. Somebody organizes a stone skipping contest. We walk a bit further up the river. Even if it is a relax time, time flies! It gets late and we return to the chalet.
Just before we get up from bed Stella gives us eye masks. We spend this wake cycle as if we are blind. Mattia is cooking for us, but he is going to wear a mask too, as soon as the food is ready to eat. We clumsily walk downstairs and have dinner together. After dinner, Stella gives us some Play-Doh and we start modeling on the table while listening to an old radio programme. It’s a radio show about history. The topic is the “Battle of Adrianople” when the Roman army was defeated by the Visigoths causing the fall of the Western-Roman Empire.
We sit around the table. Andrea provides us with several Italian newspapers dated from 1941. We spontaneously read aloud some of the articles that capture each person’s attention the most. After the reading he shows us one of his drawings: it’s made of complex undefined shapes and evokes infinite figures. We stare at the square-shaped drawing, writing down all the things that our brain could recognize inside those shapes. Once done, Andrea rotates the drawing and the game starts again. He then requests us to invent a story using both some of the characters/elements that we can recall from the articles and from figures/landscapes evoked by the drawing. We note down some basic elements of a story together.