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Have we lost control of our time, our sleep cycle and the natural rhythm of our lives? Have we forgotten how to pay attention to the world around us, or to daydream? - Jonathan Crary

Somerset house entrance with 24/7 poster on it
somerset house entrance

The 24/7 exhibition at Somerset House was a much-needed reflection on the way I live from day to day. Reflection isn’t something just for the new year but undeniably I reflect more at this time, whether it's the gloomy winter days that have me pondering the meaning of life or all possibilities of the year and the dreams to aspire to.

The key theme of this exhibition is in the name, exploring the impact of how we live 24/7 and what this means. We are under pressure to produce and consume around the clock sacrificing one of our most basic needs - sleep.

Are we filling our lives with meaningless activity in the place of thought?

Productivity, automation, and dreaming

This exhibition changed the perspective from which I view the relationship between productivity, automation, and dreaming. I entered the exhibition to face a robot programmed to continually improve even though it did not know the purpose of its work - until eventually, it burnt out. This was an interesting parallel to the useless jobs we create and companies optimising for ‘meaningless’ outcomes.

One of my top discoveries at this exhibition was the work of John Butlers Xerox’s Paradox -

Xerox's Paradox is technology's inverse effect. Xerox's fear of a paperless office led to the of the GUI, which, in turn, led to an explosion in the amount of printed matter.

The more we automate the more we must work - John Butler

Something that has stuck with me from this is the lack of time we have to daydream and think. These extracts from the artists explain it much better than I could.

'[We are on the verge] of loosing a basic human faculty: the power of bringing visions to focus with our eyes shut' - Italo Calvino

‘One of the forms of disempowerment within the 24/7 environments is the incapacitation of daydream or any other mode of absent-minded introspection that would otherwise occur in intervals of slow or vacant time' - Johnathan Crary

The significance of daydreaming makes me sad to realise how the distractions around us are taking this superpower away. I have some hope in the growing awareness of meditation that we may realise how valuable this is to us before we forget what it is all together.


A key theme throughout this exhibition is the biggest sacrifice for our 24/7 lives is our sleep.

Our body regulates sleep much the same way it regulates eating, drinking and breathing suggesting the importance of sleep to our survival. Over the 200000 years of our existence evolution has not been able to minimize the amount we sleep despite how vulnerable we are during sleep, again eluding to the importance of sleep to us.

This exhibition explored the pressures we are under to undermine our basic needs and look into what is taking us away from sleep. Here are some of the points from Jonathan Crary that stuck with me.

‘We need sleep to survive, 24/7 life with its pressure to constantly pay attention is indifferent to this need. Sleep is now a symbol for the shrinking part of our lives when we are not paying attention, browsing or consuming’

500 hours of video are uploaded onto YouTube every minute

‘Because of the infinity of content accessible 24/7 there will always be something more informative, surprising, funny, diverting, impressive than anything in one's immediate actual circumstances’

With over 50 different installations from numerous artists bringing to light the theme Jonathan Crary explores in his book 24/7 I couldn't possibly do it justice from a short blog post.

'Reclaiming time to dream could allow a new routine of waking up - to ‘recover authenticity' - Johnathan Crary

24/7 Exhibition is running until 23rd Feb 2020 in London I highly recommend you take the time to see it

Mural of words - Let's meet in real life, the future feels like clip art, insomnia is bad for business, I miss time, the future feels like homework, in your dreams, too much free time is a disaster, leisure is stupid

Get in touch with RestSpaceLDN if you would like to know more about the 24/7 exhibition at Somerset house.


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