Focusing on a theme that has flowed like a stream of consciousness through his work for more than 20 years, acclaimed American photographer Alec Soth delved into his far-reaching history of projects to create the exhibition Hypnagogia, eliciting a perspicuous connection to the transitional stage between wakefulness and sleep. Described as a neurological phenomenon, one recurrently associated with creativity, a hypnagogic state is the dreamlike experience while awake that conjures vivid, sometimes realistic imagery.
Luring viewers into a psychological journey through the gallery, Soth’s photographs capture internal experiences and unfamiliar journeys, reflecting an enduring interest in sleep and beds as vehicles for dreaming. “Hypnagogia presents an unprecedented installation of 30 works— framed photographs, pinned-up prints and large format murals—which Soth has disconnected from their particular stories to form a unique, inexplicable narrative that provokes imagination.” says Bonnie Rubenstein, the exhibition curator and CONTACT’s Artistic Director. Dream logic metaphorically connects the images, whether drawn from the artist’s extensive travels, numerous publications, or other multifarious projects, and the murky territory between fiction and non-fiction comes together through rhythmic sequencing. Capturing dreamers and visionaries, motels rooms, and abandoned beds, his lyrical depictions engender an overwhelming mood of isolation, yet a subtle humour often lurks beneath the surface.
Throughout his artistic practice, Soth inventively blurs boundaries and in doing so, commemorates acute sensations of longing, shattered aspirations, and the desire to flee civilization and live “off the grid.” Through this lens, he bends facts and crafts fictions, responding to his early works in ways not previously imagined. Coalescing images created between 1996 and 2016 for the first time, Soth said “my sense was that the show needed to be a site-specific installation, and so I had been thinking about mixing images from different projects, based on a theme. I thought of hypnagogia when I awoke in the middle of the night.”