Tuesday, 14 June 2011


We dream.

There's a perfectly ordinary sentence, if a little short, which would pass without general comment in most company. Our dreams – something to shrug off in the morning, or perhaps something to tease apart with dream journals and look-up tables of Freudian imagery. Whatever the degree of significance we choose to accord to our dreams, it seems self-evident enough that we do dream.

So we dream. What of it? What is the significance of accepting that statement, and what paths of enquiry could result? We might, for instance, ask: Are dreams entwined with our perceptions of time? Our pasts mined, our histories excavated and refined into disparate configurations of sensation and imagery; perhaps something as coherent as a reconstruction of a specific day, or some dissonant pastiche of moments past. Likewise, we might aver that our dreams give us insight concerning things that are yet to be; prophetic glimpses afforded by the parting of the veils of consciousness. Or, in the more general sense of the word, we might also consider our hopes and aspirations – of worlds remade in the image of our desires.

However, if there is a point in time most intimately bound with dreams, it may well be the present – a quality which places it in the avowedly solid, reputable company of the waking world; putting aside the possibilities of corruption, bias and confabulation, memory remains a thing of the living present, not a disinterred relic of the past. Dreaming and waking, then, relate not as exclusive, well-demarcated domains within a clear hierarchy, but as mythic twins – apparently differing expressions of a common root. This is not a dusting-off of a simulation hypothesis, but an enquiry concerning the possibilities of transference and equivalence. Dreams of events past and future, for instance, might be compared to déjà vu, or jamais vu. Similarly, the idea that dreams express that which is suppressed by the conscious mind, would also imply that our waking lives express that which is suppressed by our dream lives.

Concerning territorial metaphors of dreaming and waking, we might consider the twinned town of Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau, a fine latticework of intertwined legal jurisdictions in which a national border might pass through your living room. More conventionally, we might also consider the Walled City of Kowloon as an organic accumulation of urban life - an exclave of nowhere, encompassing facets exotic and mundane, sanctioned and proscribed.

Similarly, in ages past and present, societies have stitched together fragments of collective self-image and hailed them as visions of themselves to come – extruding their hopes and anxieties from singular points to establish their pasts and futures. Aquarian ages of crystal spires and unblemished togas, worlds blessed with atomic panaceas and limitless speed, towering neoclassical megacities crisscrossed with zeppelin traffic, even continents scarred by nuclear fire, from which humanity would spring forth once more. Insofar as none of these have come to pass, it would seem that a future dreamt-for is a future warded against – which seems particularly prudent when it comes to jetpacks, flying cars and curing everything with radium.

Through these and other potential models of binary relations, this exhibition traverses the dual domain of waking and dreaming; in so doing, the nebulous interstices of hypnagogia are probed as well. These explorations run the gamut of potential angles of attack: From meticulous charts of individual dreams and general treatments of dream phenomena, to the instantiation of phantasmagoric scenarios, collective desires and forgotten futures.

In itself, this accumulation of necessary diversity reveals another possible aspect of a dreaming-waking duality – an aspect of insurmountable difference, which remains glaringly present even as it tends infinitely towards zero. That although our individual dreams and experiences form the basis of an apparent collectivity of empirical consensus, those dreams and experiences themselves are walled off – our senses cannot perceive each other’s dreams and experiences. We remain, though similar, irrevocably unique. Of course, it may one day come to pass that direct neural interfaces will lift these barriers – when I can dream a dream of yours, and you can dream a dream of mine. 

by Bruce Quek

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dreams may be the vehicle for ritual which is necessary but lacking in our culture

i like what you are doing