During this research, called Prototypes and archetypes of the representation of sleep paralysis: an approach from art, we analyzed, as its title indicates, the different artistic prototypes and archetypes that have emerged around a neurological sleep disorder known as sleep paralysis. This parasomnia takes place during the transition from sleep to wakefulness, responding to common symptoms that cause great suffering and fear to those afflicted by it, primarily through visual sensory hallucinations.
Due to the limited and scarce information on this sleep disorder in the field of artistic research, a medical approach has been followed in the first and second chapters, accompanied by a discussion of the relevant psychological aspects, which will enable a better understanding of the anthropological field that surrounds it. This allows us to enter in the third chapter, where the cultural evolution of this parasomnia in the anthropological context is investigated through the examination of the mythology surrounding the incubus and the succubus, both of which are figures that are frequently associated with sleep paralysis. Their respective interpretation and interiorization as real beings will provide, through the association of ideas and the collective imagination, different social behavioral values to people regarding their experience with sleep paralysis. In the fourth chapter, an exhaustive analysis of prototypes and archetypes arising from the artistic representation of sleep paralysis is presented, focusing on the study of the work The Nightmare (1781) by Henry Füssli. A categorization and methodological chronology of different works ranging from the 18th century to the present day is discovered, which allows us to understand and study their analogous corresponding representation in art. In the fifth chapter, it is provided a reflection On the artistic representation and interpretation of different concepts associated with sleep paralysis, such as identity, memory and the emotion of fear, which has forwarded our understanding of this sleep disorder. At the same time, a study specifically designed for this project involved the collection of testimonies of people who have experienced sleep paralysis, in order to study their visual patterns in hallucinations from their descriptions. In the sixth and last chapter, a new perspective on the representation of sleep paralysis is proposed through the creation of subjective visual works (based on the testimonies) using photographic techniques.
The methodology used to undertake this research involved the study and analysis of ancient medical and cultural treatises, such as the Persian manuscript Hidayat by Akhawayni Bohkari from the 10th century, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) by Reginald Scot, the story The Night-Mare (1664) by Isbrand Van Diermerbroeck, the essay An essay on the incubus, or nightmare (1753) by John Bond and The Nightmare (1931) by Ernest Jones, among others. In additioninterviews were taken from contemporary artists who currently represent sleep paralysis very similar and were assembled in a compendium. Furthermore, an analytical and statistical study was also carried out, based on interviews of people who have suffered from this sleep disorder accompanied by a collection of written testimonies submitted through a web page created specifically for this artistic study.
One of the main objectives was to develop a codified study of the myths and legends in different cultures and countries, and to understand their symbolic representation based on their popular imagery and the existing tradition in the category of the monstrous and the figure of the incubus in art. Specifically, we tracked the above mentioned work The Nightmare by Füssli, a work whose influence pertains to this day, being the most representative prototype and archetype of sleep paralysis. These research outputs will allow us to reflect on, to recreate and to question the existing representation of sleep paralysis in art until our days. The final objective is to approach the subjective representation of the experience of sleep paralysis, breaking with the prototype and archetype created over the years. To this end, new patterns of representation will be proposed through the author`s artistic creation based on the collected testimonies, in order to create a visual guide that serves as a means of understanding a society that has no prior experience with sleep paralysis.
As a final conclusion, the interdisciplinary nature of this research has allowed us to understand the mythology and beliefs associated with sleep paralysis, which enables the identification and designation of possible prototypes and archetypes in the artistic representation of this parasomnia, marked by a powerful collective imagination. The artistic work presented here has created novel prototypes and archetypes of sleep paralysis, which greatly advances our understanding of this experience. As it is shown, this work is considerably better understood when is accompanied by the description of testimonies, as it connects a communication code between the text and the image. Nevertheless, despite the fact that a new proposal for the representation of sleep paralysis in art is emerging, the timeless value of the representation of Füssli’s The Nightmare is confirmed here. With this study, and with the resulting artistic works, we are able to approximate the experience of this parasomnia to a public that was unaware of it, which also reveals how the imagination operates on a collective and personal level, since it is built on each individual with components that are inherited culturally and transmitted and expressed through art.