Professor Peter Oliver

Professor Oliver discusses working with artist Ellie Land on the visuals and sound for Sleepless.

What inspired you to respond to the call out for this project? Have you had experience of working with artists on art & science projects previously?

I have been carrying out a number of public talks related to sleep and circadian rhythms and it struck me that not only was it a subject that everyone can relate to instantly, but that many of the central themes would be highly suited to explanation by animation as opposed to static imagery. I have worked with artists before, but outside of my own scientific work, which was further inspiration to apply.

Has working with an artist and explaining your research to them affected your approach to or perceptions of your practice in any way?

Explaining the work or underlying mechanisms to someone new is always a challenging yet exciting time as you have to ‘feel your way’ around the terminology and find common points of reference. For this project it has been a particularly rewarding task and a reminder of the simple experiments that go along with the career-defining eureka moments!

How are you deciding as part of the collaborative process which area of research to focus on?

The ideas for visuals and sounds are really helping to focus the piece at present; as much as the areas of research themselves.

Could you tell us more about the specific elements of the science that will be covered in the project?

Our recent discussions are focusing more on the general themes of disturbed sleep and the mechanisms in the brain that control this; the description of sleep disruption in schizophrenia is likely to be used as a way of demonstrating future applications of this research both on a personal and more technical and mechanistic level.

What were your expectations when you first started discussing your work with the artist? Have your expectations changed at all during the development process?

I did not have any particular expectations of the discussions but it has been very interesting to find out which aspects of the research connect with the artist’s own methods and experience – and build on those. I am pleased that I am being shown the developing stages of the creative process to facilitate further discussion and input; we have also been exploring sound and music ideas that I will be able to contribute to directly.

December 2013