choose a video length

  • less than 1 min
  • between 2 and 5 min
  • more than 8 min

Rêve quantique

the day I imagined the ocean

Virgile Novarina, Walid Breidi & LABOFACTORY (Jean-Marc Chomaz, Laurent Karst) - Mar 22, 2023

tags :

layout format :

about this contribution

While a sleeper may seem inert, their brain is going through subconscious creative states. Nonrapid eye movement sleep in particular is associated with a lesser perception of their self and their environment. During this stage, intense exchanges occur between brain regions.

The brain is a fathomless entity involving billions of interconnected neurons exchanging electrical, chemical, and physical signals. The electronic activity is described by the Schrodinger equation of quantum mechanics for the wave function associated with the electrons shared between all the cells. The wave-particle duality applies and, depending on the measurement apparatus, electrons may be observed as a coherent wave pattern covering large regions of the brain or as particles localized on individual neurons. Thus, thoughts and dreams belong to the wave functions space, neither undulatory nor corpuscular, and any measurement corresponds to an arbitrary projection. Alpha, beta … delta waves are such observables, traditionally used to project quantic states of mind onto a predetermined representation. But what is lost or gained in such a simple abecedary?

To explore the richness of brain activity during sleep, sleep artist Virgile Novarina, in collaboration with digital artist Walid Breid, has teamed up with physicist-artist Jean-Marc Chomaz and architect-designer Laurent Karst of LABOFACTORY, who produce art installations to question our relationships with wind, waves, clouds, and oceans.

“Full fathom five thy father lies,”1William Shakespeare. The Tempest. Act I, Scene 2. the ocean, origin and close, limbo and shroud. The ocean transmits electromagnetic signals only a few meters down. Deeper data may only be collected through sound scattering or water-born measurements from ships, buoys, or gliders. The ocean is animated by streams, vortices, and waves at all scales. Water masses retain the elusive memory of the Earth’s climate at the time they left the surface and sunk deep. The associated vertical circulation is slow, one thousand years to close the loop. It is called Thermohaline Circulation, driven by heat and salt density variations. Presently, it is tempering global warming, returning the heat of the past. But its fate in the changing world is unknown. Could the oceanic circulation stops leading to the next anoxic event as in previous geological periods?

Rêve quantique, the Day I Imagined the Ocean is conceived as an immersive installation that creates connections between the brain and the ocean, both unfathomable. An installation that keeps the quantum idea of projection onto observables that define a system of states, similar in their semantics for ocean and brain: waves, vortexes, streams, and pulsations. What would happen if the semantics of one universe is translated into the other, in a kind of inside out automatic writing? Would the visitor entering the transcoded world feel themselves diving into the dream or falling into the ocean or would reality itself be subdued, the visitor drowned in their own unconscious?

The documentary film traces the project’s genesis and the research involved. The film brings together the two unfathomable worlds, sleep and the ocean. It constitutes a visual exploration of the space opened up by the imbalance between the poetic dimensions of the project, the scientific facts and knowledge, and the human experience of shared research.

The documentary also interrogates the experience of a visitor entering the intimate space with the sleeper in his bed, close to a sort of a lighthouse that contains a miniature ocean. Getting closer, she notices the headband, the cellphone monitoring the brain waves. On the floor she observes the shadowgraphic projection of the internal oceanic movements making a bright changing circle 4 meters in diameter. What is the connection? The artists have patiently built an abecedary of delta wave states from measurements. The time series of different states forms a never-ending phrase transcoded live into a second abecedary to control a motorized device at the surface of the ocean mimicking the wind-driven entrainment. Could the visitor perceive that? Or be lost in the translation, dreaming with the ocean, flowing with the sleeper?


Virgile Novarina, sleep artist
Walid Breidi, digital artist
LABOFACTORY: Jean-Marc Chomaz, physicist-artist (CNRS, École Polytechnique) and Laurent Karst, architect-designer

in collaboration with:
Didier Bouchon, computer engineer, Chaire Arts & Sciences
Antoine Garcia, engineer, LadHyX, École Polytechnique
Giancarlo Rizza, physicist, LSI, École Polytechnique

“Entre deux insondables
À la recherche de Rêve quantique”

film direction and editing: Hélène Bozzi
sound composition: Walid Breidi
interviews and editorial mediation: Julie Sauret, Chaire Arts & Sciences, assisted by Anna Acevedo and Lior Toledano
captions integration: Christophe Pornay
sound mixing: Frank Williams
guitar: Martin Machieu
piano: Stéphane Cochet
stock footage: Frédéric Picazo, Lasse Ronne
3D images: Vladimir Kolosov
ship images: Océane Richet

acknowledgements: The installation-performance “Rêve quantique: The Day I imagined the Ocean” was collectively conceived from 2018 to 2022 at the Hydrodynamics laboratory of École Polytechnique (LadHyx), CNRS – École Polytechnique, with the support of La Chaire Arts & Sciences of École Polytechnique, École des Arts Décoratifs, and La Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso.

We would like to thank the places and structures that have supported and exhibited the successive prototypes of “Rêve quantique” during the research period: musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris – Night of Ideas 2020; CC91 La Science de l’Art Biennial – la Piscine d’en Face, Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois; Festival access)s( – Le Bel Ordinaire, Pau; Nemo Biennial – La Scène de recherche ENS Paris-Saclay; Festival ZÉRØ1 – La Coursive, La Rochelle; Festival Les Nuits d’Orient – Un singe en hiver; Dijon; Institut Français, and La Chaire Arts & Sciences.

references and rights

illustration rights and references

read more read less

Copyrights 2023 by the authors.

Reproduced with permission.

bibliography and references

read more read less


Artiushin, Gregory, and Amita Sehgal. 2020. « The glial perspective on sleep and circadian rhythms. » Annual Review of Neuroscience, vol. 43.

Barreiro, Marcelo, Alexey Fedorov, Ronald Pacanowski, and George Philander. 2008. « Abrupt climate changes: how freshening of the northern Atlantic affects the thermohaline and wind-driven oceanic circulations. » Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, vol. 36.

Boly, Mélanie, Vincent Perlbarg, Guillaume Marrelec, Manuel Schabus, Steven Laureys, Julien Doyon, Mélanie Pélégrini-Issac, Pierre Maquet, and Habib Benali. 2012. « Hierarchical clustering of brain activity during human non-rapid eye movement sleep. » Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (15): 5856-5861.

Crary, Jonathan, and Grégoire Chamayou. 2016. 24/7: Le capitalisme à l’assaut du sommeil. Paris: La Découverte.

Davis, Hallowell. 1939. « Electrical phenomena of the brain and spinal cord. » Annual Review of Physiology, vol. 1.1.

Dement, William, and Nathaniel Kleitman. 1957. « Cyclic variations in EEG during sleep and their relation to eye movements, body motility, and dreaming. » Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, vol. 9.4: 673-690.

Fogli, Alessandro, Luca Maria Aiello, and Daniele Quercia. 2020. “Our dreams, our selves: automatic analysis of dream reports.” Royal Society Open Science, vol. 7, no. 8:

Garrett, Chris, and Eric Kunze. 2007. « Internal tide generation in the deep ocean. » Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 39.

Goldstein, Andrea, and Matthew Walker. 2014. « The role of sleep in emotional brain function. » Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, vol. 10.

Gottesmann, Claude. 1971. « Psychophysiologie du sommeil. » L’Année Psychologique, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 451-488.

He, Bin, Abbas Sohrabpour, Emery Brown, and Zhongming Liu. 2018. « Electrophysiological source imaging: a noninvasive window to brain dynamics. » Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, vol. 20.

Holman, Bruce, Glen Elliott, and Jack Barchas. 1975. « Neuroregulators and sleep mechanisms. » Annual Review of Medicine, vol. 26.1.

Legg, Sonya. 2021. « Mixing by oceanic lee waves. » Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 53.

Maxworthy, Tony, and Fred K. Browand. 1975. « Experiments in rotating and stratified flows: oceanographic application. » Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 7.1.

More, Rishabh, and Arezoo Ardekani. 2022. « Motion in stratified fluids. » Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 55.

O’Hara, Casey, and Benjamin Halpern. 2022. « Anticipating the future of the world’s ocean. » Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol. 47.

Paller, Ken, Jessica Creery, and Eitan Schechtman. 2021. « Memory and sleep: how sleep cognition can change the waking mind for the better. » Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 72.1.

Roberts, James, Leonardo Gollo, Romesh Abeysuriya, Gloria Roberts, Philip Mitchell, Mark Woolrich, and Michael Breakspear. 2019. « Metastable brain waves. » Nature Communications 10 (1): 1056.

Rogers, Alex David. 2015. « Environmental change in the deep ocean. » Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol. 40.1.

Royant-Parola, Sylvie. 2017. « Le manque de sommeil nous tue. » Interview by Pascale Kremer. Le Monde.

Royant-Parola, Sylvie. 2022. Comment retrouver le sommeil par soi-même. Paris: Editions Odile Jacob.

Samson, David R. 2021. « The Human sleep paradox: the unexpected sleeping habits of Homo sapiens. » Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 50.

Shipton, Harold. 1975. « EEG analysis: A history and a prospectus. » Annual Review of Biophysics and Bioengineering, vol. 4.

Solms, Mark, and Olivier Turnbull. 2015. Le cerveau et le monde interne. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Translated by Fabian Guenolé and Geoffrey Marcaggi.

Strassberg, Richard. 2022. Wandering Spirits: Chen Shiyuan’s Encyclopedia of Dreams. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Thakor, Nitish, and Shanbao Tong. 2004. « Advances in quantitative electroencephalogram analysis methods. » Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, vol. 6.

Thorpe, Stephen. 2004. « Recent developments in the study of ocean turbulence. » Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, vol. 32.

Walker, Matthew. “You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep—and It’s Killing You”. Wired.

Wunsch, Carl, and Raffaele Ferrari. 2004. « Vertical mixing, energy, and the general circulation of the oceans. » Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 36, no. 1.

to cite this article

This article is using Chicago format for its references

Novarina, Virgile, Walid Breidi, Jean-Marc Chomaz, and Laurent Karst. 2023. “Rêve Quantique, The Day I Imagined the Ocean.’” .able journal: https://able-journal/reve-quantique

discover on social media

Use the links below to share a suitable version of this contribution on social media:

coming soon…

discover other articles