Art and dreams have walked hand in hand throughout history. Prevalent across the arts from literature such as Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1823) which famously came to her in a dream, to cinematic classics like the Hollywood adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) which used Technicolor to contrast the drab black and white reality that Dorothy inhabited when back in Kansas, to becoming the key focus of ‘Surrealism’, the 20th-century avant-garde movement concerned with exploring the subconscious. The meaning and existence of dreams has been the subject much scientific, social and artistic study. Whether dreams reveal aspects of our subconscious which we may otherwise be unaware of or if they are simply helping us process our day to day experiences they have been responsible for much creative contribution and no doubt will continue to do so.
Dreams can exist without time, coherence, narrative or form. There exists an idea that to enter a dream is not to create something new but rather a state of being that we are always somewhat a part of and are free to slip in and out of. This idea suggests that there is a stream of abstract consciousness that is constantly taking place that we can enter into a leave at will. This then gives the impression that we each have the capacity to abandon this reality and enter into a new one. We can do this not only through differing our physical state, such as sleeping, but also through the creation and exploration of the arts. ‘Rift’ could be a perfect example of this as through her chosen mediums and motifs Mani Kambo invites her audience to enter into her dreamscape.
This is most prevalent in Kambo’s audio visual piece. Kambo explained to us that she sees herself as mainly a digital artist whose practice is largely concerned with the moving image. The film exhibited in ‘Rift’ is an abstract sequence of film, photography and animation seeped in bold imagery that is coherent with the other elements of exhibition. The film is played on four sheets of fabric that hang an equal distance from each other in the centre of the room. As he projection hits each sheet of netting the images become enlarged and more distorted as the light passes through the fabric. The true beauty of this piece is that the viewer can not only walk around the film, watching as it changes from every perspective in the room, but they can also walk through it, literally entering into the landscape. As the light hits the viewer as they walk between the silk-like hangings one could argue that they then become part of the dream. As the film surrounds the viewer they can allow themself to become completely immersed. By doing this, they are inhabiting both this physical reality and the dream world that Kambo has constructed. This could therefore be a visual representation of slipping from the conscious to the subconscious, this physical landscape to a dreamscape, as seamlessly as drifting in and out of sleep.
One could even argue that all art is a dream, a dream that is becoming realised and grounded in reality as an artist translates the language of dreams into their own visual language with which they can communicate to a wider audience. There seems to be an overlap between. Examining Kambo’s work, one could explore art as a means of attempting to inhabit more than one reality at once. The ‘Rift’ that the title of the exhibition is referring to could be this pace between what is real and what is a dream, the space where one can exist within both.
Dreams are such an evocative subject matter I have left some resources and further reading so that you can delve a little deeper into the world of dreams within art.
– Rosie Stronach
MoMA Learning: Surrealism
If you’re interested in how the practice of surrealism in the 20th century related to the study of dreams the Museum of Modern Art has information online at MoMA Learning. The link provided below offers information writings of psychologist Sigmund Freud inspired this movement as well as offering some activities that you can have a go at to pursue this subject more!
Front Row on Radio 4: How do dreams become art? (6 September 2018)
This 12 minute discussion examines various different elements of dreams including, what they may be, what they can do, what they have inspired and the future study of dreams. This could be a fantastic starting point if you are interested in the study of dreams or perhaps want to start examining dreams in your own creative ventures…
BBC Arts: Neon dreamland: Atmospheric photographs of Tokyo after dark (19th September 2018)
The cityscapes that photographer and art director Liam Wong captures exist in the space between landscape and dreamscape. His images of Tokyo resemble fantastical sci-fi backdrops or the setting of a futuristic video game in their dynamic use of colour and composition.