I Don't Trust Myself When I'm Sleeping II

Intervention and gold leaf (22K) on color photographs; variable dimensions.

2018 – 2020

The project “I don’t trust myself when I’m sleeping”, currently with two parts, gives continuity to the artist’s enquiries about the places of memory and photography in the construction of identity narratives.
The project appears initially as a response to a concrete problem. In 2018, the artist was in residence in Berlin and suffered from a crisis of insomnia, which resulted in tiredness, lack of concentration, and galloping anxiety. Regardless of its causes and whether it is a private matter, insomnia as a problem has a political dimension.
Sleep not only enables the body to recover from the wear and tear suffered during waking, but it also contributes powerfully to the formation and consolidation of memory. It also seems to be important for the mental processes underlying intuition and creativity. But, as Jonathan Crary tells us, this fundamental activity of human life, which should occupy at least a third of our time, is under direct attack by late capitalism. Although it has not yet been fully integrated by it, sleep is nevertheless very fragile, and our life is inscribed, in general, in a duration without intervals, defined by the possibility of continuous functioning.
Paradoxically, the artist seems to fall into this trap. Pressed by the need to present results, the artist decides to make the moments of her insomnia productive, contrary to Crary’s idea that sleep is the last instance of resistance to the voracity of inevitable productivity. But she does it according to her rules. Thus, the insomniac artist summons to her work, albeit in a veiled way, the themes and subjects that prevent her from sleeping. Using photographs from family albums found, as is already customary in her practice, the artist finds in them the ideal support to mould the images and characters of her personal history, images that cross the barriers of sleep and wakefulness, experience and memory. In addition to the usual affection with which Carla Cabanas treats the anonymous photographs that she uses in her work, this time she also introduces irony and satire, in the way she stripes and obliterates parts of the original image, populating them with new characters and new senses.

The second part of this project, “I don’t trust myself when I’m sleeping II”, was carried out in 2020. In this series, in addition to scratching the images with the scalpel, Cabanas experiments with gold leaf, inspired by the Japanese restoration technique Kintsugi, about which she acquired practical knowledge in 2017. Kintsugi is a century-old method of ceramic repair, which consists of gluing the broken piece with Urushi natural lacquer and covering the cracks resulting from the gluing with gold. The aim, in making these cracks evident, is to give value to faults and physical changes in objects, caused by time or accidents. In a society obsessed with hiding its weaknesses and fixing a perfect image of itself, even if erroneous, the artist directs her focus to the opposite, summoning the difficult moments of her life as inspiration. As if, by applying gold to her torn drawings, she is softening her ghosts, accepting and even valuing their vulnerabilities and wounds.


Exhibition views at Balcony Contemporary Art Gallery 2020, Lisbon.
Documentation © Bruno lopes