Dreams and the subconscious are present in all aspects of my art production. These recurring themes weave themselves through my work, surfacing in photographic explorations of place, memory and collaborative narratives. Through the language of art, the subconscious mind and its expression of dreams are made tangible. The work I am doing with the Dream Log is related to process, performance, and an attempt to translate the ephemeral experience of a dream into a tangible document through photography and writing. It is also about storytelling and a desire to communicate an experience. The majority of my practice has in some way been concerned with the themes of consciousness, memory and time.
This series of photographs and text documents my experience during a night's sleep. The apparatus for capturing this experience is a pinhole camera and a notebook. The performed process is to open the shutter just before I go to sleep and close it when I wake up in the morning. The camera records the body's movement during the night and often results in a blurred image. Before I get up, I write the contents of the dream from that night. This process of writing and image making is to relate the exposure to the awake written recording of the dream from the night before, both of which are interpretive and somewhat speculative in nature. My recall of the dreams is sometimes absent, fragmented, or hard to decipher. This may be due to such factors as sleep quality, body movements and the amount of light available in the room. The result is a two-part document of the same period of time: one that is a physical representation of my body, the other an abstract record of the thought activity in my brain at the concurrent time.
Though it seems to be on the flip side of what we perceive as ‘real’, there is a very tangible sort of information gleaned from this exercise. In his book The Head Trip: Adventures of the Wheel of Consciousness, Jeff Warren postulates that “each state of sleeping has its rough waking twin” and that “the sensory divide acts as mirror.” (p 338) He goes on to describe this theory in a three dimensional graph/map which outlines that REM sleep, the stage of sleep where we most often dream is closely linked to a waking state he describes as the ‘zone’. The zone is often referred to in relation to actions such as sports and is described by Warren as a state where “Time dissolves, and with it self-doubt - there is only the action and the body, smooth automatic movements unencumbered by interfering thoughts.” (p265). In other words, a state of mind where the rational analytical mind is in the backseat allowing our minds to react in the moment. In many cases, what we dream is an extension of our experience of the waking world but without the cumbersomeness of rational thought. Other scientists such as Stephen LaBerge and Rodolfo Llina argue, “dreaming and waking are equivalent states.” (Warren p336), adding fuel to the fire that in terms of reality, the brain gives equal measure to both.
The idea that the sensory divide between waking and dreaming is like a mirror has also had me thinking about Michel Foucault’s lecture “Of Other Spaces” from 1967 where he speaks of the mirror as a “placeless place.” He says:
In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror.
I see a connection to this statement and my feeling as I develop the negatives of my sleeping self in the darkroom: a vision of my physical body as I will never see it with my own eyes, and yet it is not real- it is a rendered image of light onto film. The lens of the camera is the mirror in this case, reflecting and bouncing light into an inverse version of the world. The lens is also akin to the sensory divide in that translates the real essence of the world into an abbreviated and ambiguous version of time as recorded over an entire night.
For the work at Three Walls Gallery, I extended the Dream Log work by constructing my own version of a dream lab in the gallery. The lab consisted of a bed, a bedside table with lamp, a voice recorder, and a 4”x5” camera. Throughout the course of the show, I slept in the constructed lab and filed each night’s dream documentation in a filing cabinet. This documentation consisted of an audio recounting of the dream, a written transcript and a photograph of the 8 hours I was asleep. Visitors to the gallery were invited to listen to the audio transcripts on the CD player or read the transcripts located in the file folder.
Five previous works were also displayed in the exhibition and revealed my process of recording my dreams – and the dreams of others – over the past year and a half
At the same time, I invited participants from the area to take home a 4”x5” pinhole camera and notebook to document their dreams as well. These images and texts are archived in the notebook and are available to others to peruse. At the end of the exhibit, I had both filing cabinet and notebook filled with dream documentation. This notebook developed into The Book of Dreams. (Please hyperlink to "Book of Dreams" portfolio.
This work was funded in part by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias. http://foucault.info/documents/heteroTopia/foucault.heteroTopia.en.html
Warren, Jeff. The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness.
Toronto : Random House Canada. 2007.