an underwater journey into dreams and imagination
Immerse yourself in the surreal realm of underwater dreams, where kelp fronds refract the sun's rays and curious seals weave in and out of the underwater forest. This animation shows the adventure of an aquatic explorer who meets a fur seal companion beneath the waves. Later, the woman dreams of the same encounter, but from the perspective of the fur seal.
She dreams of what it must be like to sleep like a fur seal, contorted at the surface with three flippers above the water, with one flipper lazily paddling to maintain this posture. She imagines opening just one eye, directed towards the water, to survey the aquatic realm for danger in the form of predators or fellow seals. She imagines that this eye is wired to the half of her brain which is on the other side of her body. She imagines that this half of the brain is awake and vigilant, while the other half of the brain lazily drifts in and out of consciousness. As the fur seal, she awakens herself as she slips into the water and later again as she playfully blows a bubble.
Fur seals, like sea lions, have a remarkable way of sleeping. They can adapt to their environment. When they sleep on land, they sleep with both halves of their brain, much like ourselves as well as the family of true seals (Phocidae) including elephant seals and harbor seals. But, when they have to sleep in the water, they sleep like dolphins and whales, with only one hemisphere of their brain at a time. When they sleep in the water, they sleep in this jughandle posture and have one open eye directed to the water (contralateral to the waking hemisphere) and one closed eye directed to the air (contralateral to the sleeping hemisphere).
Read our latest paper, where we observed this pattern for the first time.
Special thanks to the supremely talented Connor Vance for composing the original music for this animation. After going to high school together, I have followed the incredible music he has created with his bluegrass band, the Dustbowl Revival, and by himself. I asked him if he would create a piece to go along with the animation and was overjoyed when he agreed.
This animation will be featured at Burning Man this year, where the theme is "metamorphosis". The animation will be burned onto 35mm film by Maya Diao and Roo Sczesnak and mounted into a manually operated kinetoscope/morphoscope which advances the film at 24 frames per second. Here are some sketches and models of the final installation.
Although this animation features a fur seal, it was inspired by many underwater adventures with harbor seals and sea lions off the coast of California. Here is a video of one of those magical encounters, with a harbor seal on Catalina island. After testing my breath-holds, she finally showed me her secret hideout (8th photo). At first, she would lay in the sargassum, half hiding out in the open, until I came to take her picture, when she would dart away. Eventually, she led me to her hideout, where she would wait patiently until I found her. If I lost interest and swam away, she would come out of hiding, track me down, chew on my flippers, and lead me back to the spot. Finally, we had to go in and she followed us about a kilometer, back to the Wrigley dock