Oneiric Space
Circulations (@ Sunrise)

hiii~! Welcome to our new series exploring forms of dream-sharing and how they’re entangled with aspects of social, cultural, and political life. We'll be speaking to artists, researchers, and practitioners, often at sunrise, in an attempt to meet the rhythms of the dreaming mind. Our first conversation will be published here, in the newsletter, next week. Subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox 💌

Below is an intro to Circulations (@ Sunrise), written by Charmaine Li. 

Every night, we slip into an internal theater…

                           soft and sinuous or sharp and unshakeable or
     forms elongate with feelings / quivers ripple out into waves,   
 faces mask memories, histories meld with fears, hopes
                                                                             stretch to new  ᴴ ᴱ ᴵ ᴳ ᴴ ᵀ ˢ

        moving forward and backward, sometimes,
                        specks of light radiate, soar, transform

                                                                            in unity with the Way
                                                                                                             •,¸ •°. *࿐


Sometimes fragments linger long enough to see the light of day. Other times they escape from consciousness, leaving quiet traces on the body. Once in a while, a dream will hurtle through me with such force I’ll find myself, eyes closed, jotting it down before I register an impulse to document. When I pull myself out from the depths, I’m often left with an inclination to give shape to the inner experiences—and to share remnants that reverberate. There’s something about the substance of dreams that draw out an urge to disclose them to others. Perhaps because these nocturnal visions are intertwined with our inner and outer realms as much as they’re bound to an expansive, unknowable one.

In the book, "Dreaming in Dark Times: Six Exercises in Political Thought" (2017), scholar Sharon Sliwinski describes dreams as “vehicles for otherwise unthinkable thoughts and a species of psychological work that can fold and transfigure the force of a harsh reality”. In each chapter, she excavates dreams from the historical record and explores how the act of disclosing dream life can have a “profound significance for our social and political life together”. Reading about Nelson Mandela, Lee Miller, Frantz Fanon, and Wilfred Owen among others, and how they groped their way through the peculiar language and material of dreams to express something about their lived experience at a particular moment in time, I couldn’t help but wonder: What happens when dreams extend beyond our private worlds and connect with other dreams? Can sharing slivers of dream life with others deepen our understanding of larger patterns?
This dream by Nelson Mandela is the one that Sliwinski discusses in "Dreaming in Dark Times". It originally appeared in Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom" (1994). 
This screenshot is an excerpt from the article "The Prisoner's Nightmare" by Sliwinski that appears on the Museum of Dreams, an online research hub that explores the "social and political significance of dream-life".
Effie and I first started thinking about dream-sharing in a group context while planning ONEIRIC.SPACE's ‘Anxiety Release Reading’, which we hosted at Haus am Lützowplatz in January 2020, in the frame of the ‘It was all a dream’ exhibition curated by Laura Helena Wurth. 
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For the event, we collected anonymous dream accounts where the prevailing feeling was ‘anxiety’. To explore the dream and waking forms of this state, we read a selection of submitted dreams and invited four people – working across an array of disciplines – to reflect on the topic of anxiety/anxiety dreams: artist and scientist Mert Akbal; writer and historian Edna Bonhomme; poet and printer Nat Marcus; and photographer Charmaine de Heij.

At the peak of the pandemic, when lockdowns and social distancing rules were imposed around the world, people suddenly reported stranger, more vivid dreams. It was the first time I had seen such widespread coverage of dreams in the media since I started my own self-guided studies on the topic more than ten years ago. Not only that, thousands of users shared their nocturnal visions on Twitter with the hashtag #coronadreams. Projects, such as Neptune’s COVID-19 Collective Dream Journal and I dream of covid, began emerging in an attempt to document how this societal shift was influencing our dreaming minds—individually and collectively. Observing these events at the time, I was reminded of "Das Dritte Reich des Traums" ("The Third Reich of Dreams"), a book by Charlotte Beradt that I had read about in late 2019, shortly before cases of the coronavirus were reported and ONEIRIC.SPACE's 'Anxiety Release Reading' took place.

After the Nazis rose to power in 1933, Beradt, a Jewish journalist living in Berlin, kept having nightmares about being hunted. One night, she woke up in sweats, once again, but this time, with the thought that she might not be the only one having these types of dreams. This prompted her to record the dreams of people around her: A factory owner, an aunt, a dressmaker, a lawyer, a student. After fleeing Germany in 1939, Beradt and her husband found their way to New York in 1940. By then, she had a collection of three hundred dreams, fifty of which became her book "Das Dritte Reich des Traums," first published in 1966 in Germany with the help of political philosopher Hannah Arendt. The book, which is organized into chapters that focus on recurring themes, reveals how socio-political shifts have far-reaching effects on our psyche and, as Sliwinski writes about Beradt in one chapter, “represents one of the more systematic attempts to study this dynamic”. 

Beyond the psychoanalyst's office, there are few spaces in modern life designated for freely discussing dreams, especially as they relate to our broader social context. Oftentimes, this intimate part of our lives is deemed too trivial to be worth our sustained attention. In "24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep" (2013), the American art critic Jonathan Crary points out that the value of dreams began to wane in the seventeenth century because dreaming couldn't be "accommodated within conceptions of mental life based on empirical sense perception or on abstract rational thought." And its devaluation continued after Sigmund Freud published "The Interpretation of Dreams" in 1900. “The widely held truism that all dreaming is the scrambled, disguised expression of a repressed wish is a colossal reduction of the multiplicity of dream experiences,” Crary writes.

Many cultures around the world have long cultivated customs to negotiate their private nightly visions and to integrate them into the public waking realm. In the "Samguk Sagi" ("History of the Three Kingdoms"), a 12th-century text chronicling Korean history, one of the earliest accounts of the Korean tradition of buying and selling dreams is documented. The practice consists of sharing dreams among loved ones, and “selling” a dream that has auspicious elements as a symbolic act of passing on good fortune to others. Among the Ongee people of the Andaman Islands, there was, until recently, a tradition of narrating dreams and their associated smells from the previous night to one another before sleep. In the 2004 article "Forest Smells and Spider Webs: Ritualized Dream Interpretation Among Andaman Islanders," the researcher Vishvajit Pandya, who worked with the hunter-gatherer society for two decades from the 1980s onwards, wrote, "Because all individuals share the forest campsite and activities, it becomes possible to connect the smells and places from dreams and to construct the interpretation of a dream. Each individual dream is like a spider web, but in the process of collective interpretation, small webs get interconnected to form a larger spider web."

While thinking about the intention behind this series, I kept coming back to a passage from "Integral Dreaming: A Holistic Approach to Dreams" (2012) by researchers Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers:

"Dreams reflect our personal developmental journey while presenting us with enigmatic, partial, and difficult visions of the dilemmas that tie self and society together in their evolutionary dance; dreams reflect the traces of alienation and fragmentation as well as recovery and remembrance of our state of interdependence."

Through conversations and experiments, Circulations (@ Sunrise) hopes to open up an intimate space to be with these nightly phenomena – creatively, somatically, communally. To see dreams anew, in their strange, unexpected beauty, as they relate to other dreams and the world around us.

Conversations will be published periodically here, in our newsletter. Our digest format, compiling dream-related news, projects and events, will continue to appear sporadically.

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Thank you to the wonderful humans who engaged in dialogue about this series, earlier versions of this text, and/or my Blender experiments: Effie, the Kitchen Table Writing Group, Meg, Manisha, Alexis, Anna-Lena 💛
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