The Big Sleep is a multimedia art piece from 1968 by the Quebec artist Edmund Alleyn. This project is a digital restoration for a retrospective show of the works of Edmund Alleyn in the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Montreal. The Big sleep is a wood structure that houses a mannequin body, a small screen, hidden speakers, and an array of small light bulbs. When visitors press a switch key, the lights start flickering randomly, speakers start playing a recorded sound, and a slide projector shows images that depict Vietnam war.
I was commissioned by the conservation department at the museum of fine arts to restore the functionality of this piece to match the original behaviour. The work was done with these objectives in mind: maintain as much of the original circuits and mechanism as possible, and maintain the piece’s behavior to match what has been documented from the last display in 1980’s.
The process involved digitizing the piece to replace what was an all-analogue electrical circuit mechanism. The light animation, which was triggered by a switch board that operates a rotary disk, is replaced by a DMX dimmer box; the slide projector was replaced with a small LED pico projector, the original slides were digitized into a series of computer images and the hidden speakers were replaced by desktop computer speakers. All elements were connected to a mac computer that was hidden close to the original piece.
The original switch was replaced by an arduino circuit with a push button switch which sends a signal to the mac computer to start the light animation, slide projector, and sounds.