Whenever something that is taboo becomes temporarily un-tabooed, there is a special sort of gratification that comes from it. Staying up late as a child on New Year’s Eve, accidental shoplifting (maybe), or—as seen last week in Wellington—napping in public. If like me you have napped in public, whether it be in a library, hotel lobby, park bench, a display bed in Farmer’s, you’ll understand the unavoidable feeling that you shouldn’t be sleeping. The public dozer always sneakily tries to be discreet. But why? Everyone gets tired, rest is important, and when we’re sleepy we’re often not at home. For these reasons, I was extremely excited to see what seemed like a weekday mirage—a welcoming bed in a parking space along Cuba Street.
This installation of a white bed attended by three white-clothed figures was the effort of the Emotion Time Collective who, after exhibiting together previously, came together again to contribute to this year’s Parking Day. Parking Day took place on 11 March, as part of an annual event that sees parking spaces in cities across the world replacing parked cars with experimental and often interactive creative spaces. This year in Wellington there were 17 different installations across the CBD, including a space completely filled with 80 road cones, a giant pillow and people eating cookies and milk in old-timey clothes.
I, like many others, was drawn to Emotion Time’s parking spot in particular at first purely by visuals. A monochromatic bright white bed in the middle of Cuba Street is not particularly inconspicuous and as I neared the parking space, I was bemused to see a person sleeping in the bed. My first thought was “aw, lucky them”, and when I learnt that anyone could have a snooze, I was immediately interested. I was given a pre-nap form to fill out, which included questions on how tired I was (I’m always tired), how long I wanted to nap for (20 minutes max), and what I wanted to listen to as I dozed (I picked “rain on a tent”).
As I waited for the current napper to finish napping, I chatted (quietly) with the artists. The premise of the project was simple—the play on replacing parked cars with parked people, the guise of therapeutic pseudo-science, a general awareness for rest in the city. As they described these ideas, they noted the discrepancy between the public’s requests for verbal explanations and the redundancy of the requests, since those who chose to nap would instantly understand the project.
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Soon it was my turn for a nap and I eagerly took my shoes and glasses off and climbed into the freshly made bed, which was even comfier than it looked (it looked really really comfy). I was given earphones, and as I put them on the sounds of Cuba Street were nicely replaced with Rain On Tent-like sounds. Next to go was my sight, with the help of a soft white eyemask. I buried myself under the soft sheets and relaxed, which—given the foot-traffic heavy location—was surprisingly easy. With a warm sheets and a light breeze, I felt more like I was on a cloud than lower Cuba, and I quickly settled into a doze.
When my allocated nap was over I reluctantly left the bed, in a refreshed state. I was the fourteenth napper of the day, and the next napper was already waiting to rest. I thanked the artists and as I left the parking space I remained in a bit of a daze, still smiling from my public nap, a pleasure that felt almost post-coital. As I walked further away with a perhaps slightly creepy facial expression, I couldn’t help but think that each and every person I passed could really do with a public nap as well.