The alpha state of mind is the first stage of sleep or hypnosis, when the mind is set at ease and begins to dream. In her great poem of dreaming, “Wildly Constant,” Anne Carson compares ravens to water, calling them “wildly constant,” which might be one way to describe the alpha state—as a fixed place of wilderness flapping with ideas, wherein memory and imagination combine in the early stages of a dream. The poem’s title could describe a nightclub, too, but Carson turns instead to the staid image of a glacial library (Roni Horn’s Library of Water in Stykkishólmur, Iceland), a place of still waters. She writes, as her speaker begins to drift off,
I stand in another world.
Not the past not the future.
Not paradise not reality not
An other competence,
Wild and constant.
Who knows why it exists.
And yet, this is not-not a dream, too. In Alpha State, Von Zeipel has imagined her own dreamy installation of knotted images—of past and future, paradise and reality—that form an undersea nightclub where sleep and wakefulness blend into amalgamated people and objects, all of it rushing together in a brackish water of “wild and constant” things. Who knows why it exists?
The new works included in Alpha State are situated in an AREA (the legendary New York nightclub of the 1980s) of dreams, complete with an ATM—penetrated by a raver emerging from its form, its sign revised to suggest ass 2 mouth—and the other necessary décor and figures of the hallucinatory space of booze, drugs, and dancing, including a full-length mirror set within a cresting wave; usable chairs composed of butch lesbians in drop-crotch trousers and puffy jackets; and a thin bartender serving a kind of magic tonic, his frame fused into a wall back ended by a flowing toilet. Corals and hearts protrude and proliferate across this aquatic dream-space at full fathom five. And like the creatures that linger at the reefs, each object is imbued with “something rich and strange,” where the normal boundaries between body or object blur in the water Von Zeipel has drawn her new work.
Carson concludes her poem by invoking the French novelist Marcel Proust, who “says memory is of two kinds”: “the daily struggle to recall / where we put our reading glasses” and “a deeper gust of longing / that comes up from the bottom / of the heart.” This might also describe two states of dreaming, or at least the dreaming Von Zeipel’s Alpha State suggests—the mundane and the poetic—and it is these two states that collide across the exhibition, like waves crashing upon a shore, one dream giving way to another, and another, and another, in a ceaseless revolution driven by forces from below and within as much as above.
CAJSA VON ZEIPEL (born 1983) studied at the Städelschule (Frankfurt) and the Royal Institute of Art (Stockholm). She has recently been shown at Mitchell Algus Gallery (New York), The Scandinavian Institute (New York), Artipelag (Stockholm), and Swedish Art Now (Stockholm). Recent solo exhibitions include Saturn Return at Andrehn-Schiptjenko Gallery (Stockholm), Ponytails at Company (New York), Zoo Collective—Cajsa von Zeipel vs Carl Milles at Millesgården (Stockholm), and Insulting the Archive at Arcadia Missa (London). In 2015, a monograph of her work, Pro Anatomy, was published by Capricious Publishing (New York).