There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.
Anthem, Leonard Cohen
In Sleep’s Dark Kingdom, by DePaul faculty member Steve Harp, is an artist’s book created in response to the SSRC’s call for proposals to celebrate the UNESCO designated International Year of Light.
My approach takes as its starting point the notion that conceptions of light are meaningless without framing notions of darkness. Light only enters the realm of perception out of a darkness.
In “The Hollow Men,” (1925) T. S. Eliot writes of “death’s dream kingdom,” a place of disguises, with “eyes I dare not meet.” It is a kind of limbo, a twilight kingdom – a place between. The dream kingdom is also, of course, the place of sleep – itself a liminal zone between the clear consciousness of the light of day and the obscure darkness of unconsciousness. If light is a metaphor for clarity or understanding, sleep has its own light emerging from darkness: the cold, crystalline clarity Freud posits residing in the dream continually hidden by layers of resistances obscuring it in metaphor, symbol, displacement. Yet centrally, what Freud suggests is that the light of the dream (the latent content) can only become visible emerging from a darkness (the manifest content – always only known through its telling or representation, never through direct access to the dream “itself” – a kind of double cloaking or darkness).
My project touches on or suggests four “realms” or kingdoms of darkness, terrestrial and extraterrestrial, conscious and unconscious, in which light’s emergence from darkness and obscurity is to be celebrated all the more for its rarity and brevity. What I have attempted to do in this project – itself obscurely explained thus far – is to suggest darkness as an opportunity for light, darkness as the necessary frame allowing glimmers of light – of clarity, of understanding, of meaning, of hope – to break through and become manifest themselves.