Dreams are a place for the human brain’s sub- and unconscious; they are a space beyond the boundaries of reality and the everyday, but are the vibrant forces impregnating several works in The Ventriloquists 2, as Elizabeth Biek introduces them. 「夢」是我們的潛意識和下意識的彰顯，繪形繪聲，卻與現實和日常不同領域。這裡所介紹的幾個「腹語系」作品看來甚為日常，夢的流量卻溢滿、迴旋；它們或帶著夢操作的隨機，成為有意識地放開作者操控的不假思索創作方法，又或試圖模擬夢境的斷裂不羈，刷新敘述的實驗。
**feature image: Hypnagogia / Hypnopompia by Sofya Antonova
Dream narrative is a concept derived from surrealist art. A cultural movement created in the 1920s, after WWI, originating from Europe. The purpose of the movement was to release creative potential from the unconscious mind. This was inspired by Sigmund Freud’s research which suggests that our natural instincts and memory come from the deepest layer of our minds — this being the unconscious mind, as we are normally unaware of it. Surrealism can be divided into two types, automatism and the veristic, the former being work that explored fear, desire, fantasy, eroticism, and symbolism, creating without conscious thought, highlighting chance encounter and the letting go of full control. The veristic is known as work which attempts to accurately portray the depiction of the unconscious, highlighting the process and movement of thoughts especially their truncated narrative quality.
— Elizabeth Biek
Works featured in this post:
The Love of Reflection (video, dream narrative) – HUANG Siyi
Wet Dream (video, dream narrative) – Elizabeth Biek
Hypnagogia / Hypnopompia (video, dream narrative) – Sofya Antonova
Alternative Realities (video, dream narrative) – CHEUNG Wing-tung Nicole
The box on fire is the new cage (dream montage sequence) – CHOI Chun-hei Jacky
The Love of Reflection – HUANG Siyi
Video Dream Narrative 03’15’’ | https://youtu.be/B5XgDKQ7nJk
Sunken in her dreams, she walks through the forest inside her heart. Her oppressed love and desires turn into a fanatical obsession with herself and eventually come to a narcissistic ending.
The scene of wandering off in the woods functions like the seed of the story. It clearly shows the emotional state of the girl. In the first phase, the girl walks peacefully. In the second phase, she begins to play hide and seek which suggests that she is feeling nervous and uncomfortable about revealing her inner emotions. And when she begins to run in the third phase, she is fully controlled by the upsurge of her love.
We are all constrained by the rules we set for ourselves and control our emotional expression in real life, but in our dreams, we can finally face the candid desires inside our hearts. According to Freud, the unconscious mind is the “boiling water” inside our heart that motivates us in many ways. As long as we are still able to dream, we have the chance to go back to our original freedom.
“In this moving image work, I apply Freud’s theory about dream and libido, and adapt features from the Greek mythology of Narcissus. Freud regards the symptom of narcissism as a potential instinct of the libido. When a person meets setbacks from the outside world, they will turn to their inside for protection. In this state, they only want to love themselves and nobody else, so much in fact that it could even kill them.
“I want to show the tension between the id and ego, the unconscious and conscious, between dream and reality. I created a mind space, like a hot and humid forest in summer, to show the fanatical obsessions and desires of the character.” — Huang Siyi
Wet Dream – Elizabeth Biek
Video : Dream Narrative | 01’25’’ | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg2UCpxBaig
The 3-minute short video focuses on pushing the limitations of the male gaze, whilst exploring sexuality. The “male gaze” theorizes the depiction of women as sexual objects to gratify the hetereosexual male audience in visual art or literature. Throughout this video, the female character is dressed conventionally, wearing a slightly provocative dress, in addition to make-up and plaited hair. This contrasts with a previous scene. She dreams of being able to break the mold of a woman whereby she is only seen as a sexual object by men. Conveyed through her eating habits, untidy and exaggerated, in contrast with a girl who restricts eating in order to stay slim. She is harmed whilst eating, a warning for being unconventional. Learning that as long as she is expressing femininity in a sexual way to gratify men, she will be rewarded. For instance, when she is gifted with flowers, the flowers change to a phallic object. She is curious and intrigued, investigating the object through consumption. Exploring with her mouth. Also showing how the objectification of women can lead to male validation.
“In this video, I mostly focused on automatism, relying predominantly on chance. This process was accomplished by having no original plan for the work. I set up the space to be more dream-like, however, having little preparation for the acts done throughout filming and editing. After the completion of the film, the sequencing of the shots reminded me of softcore pornography. The use of phallic objects, foods that are an aphrodisiac, such as strawberries, symbolisms of love, gifting one with flowers, and the consistent eye contact with the camera, making it feel as though the viewer is actually in the film. The music, Reborn, composed by Colin Stetson, was chosen to give the film an unnatural ethereal vibe.” — Elizabeth Biek
Hypnagogia / Hypnopompia – Sofya Antonova
Your brain is trying to make sense of illogical fluid ideas embodying them into physical matter in your imagination. Your brain persuades you that those logical hallucinations, nonsensical phrases are rational, yet, you are aware that they are not. Eventually, you fall asleep and for the next several months you forget this arbitrary joke of your mind.
Hypnagogia is “a subjective experience on the threshold of sleep when internal aurora from dissociated personality subsystems emerge” (McKellar, 1995), in other words, a state of consciousness during the onset of sleep. The opposite transitional state from sleep into wakefulness is described as hypnopompic (Warren, Jeff, 2007). These states cause visual, logical and auditory hallucinations, sometimes other types as well.
Psychoanalyst of 20th century Herbert Silberer was describing this phenomenon as autosymbolism: hypnagogic hallucinations representing whatever one is thinking at the time, turning abstract thought into a concrete image (Silberer, 1909). Here we can draw a parallel to the working process of surrealist artists, as surrealism itself appears to be inspired by the nature of narrative of the dream and the reality. They seem to be contradictions of each other, but, merging together, they create a “kind of absolute reality, a surreality” (Breton, 1969).
Freud’s ideas of displacement and condensation are mechanisms operating in the field of surrealism, which are responsible for the representation of dream content. Hallucinations in the hypnagogic state seem to have a similar structure like a dream, differentiating only in being awake. In my work I applied the method of condensation to transmit feelings and visual sensations into the manifest content of this dream narrative.
For my work I have been thinking of scraps of my own visions. The visions of those “dreams” were closely connected with emotions and sensations, which are still vivid and tangible. It appears that in spite of the conscious mind trying to suppress those memories, the unconscious is recalling them. To transfer the hallucinations into art, I used parametric narration to organize these individual elements into a holistic style system. The main parameters are looped motions of the objects repeated in permutations. Thus, the narrative system is shown through repetitive patterns, such as nonsensical phrases and intrusive motions, to display the inner sensations of being out of control over the mental processes.
Aragon, L. (2003). A Wave of Dreams . Translated by Susan de Muth. Bordwell, D. (2013). Narration in the fiction film. Routledge.
Breton, A. (1969). Manifestoes of surrealism (Vol. 182). University of Michigan Press.
McKellar, P. (1995). Creative imagination: Hypnagogia and surrealism. Journal of Mental Imagery.
Silberer, Herbert (1909). ‘Bericht Ueber eine Methode, gewisse symbolische Hallucinations Erscheinungen hervorzurufen und zu beobachten’. Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische Forschungen 1:2, pp. 513–525; Eng. Transl. by Rapaport D., ‘Report on a method of eliciting and observing certain symbolic hallucination phenomena’, in Rapaport’s Organization and pathology of thought, pp. 195–207 (Columbia Univ. Press, New York 1951.).
Stickgold R, Malia A, Maguire D, Roddenberry D, O’Connor M (2000). “Replaying the game: Hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics”. Science. 290 (5490): 350–3
Warren, Jeff (2007). “The Hypnopompic”. The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness
Alternative Realities – CHEUNG Wing Tung Nicole
Video : Montage Sequence using found material | 01’18’’ | https://vimeo.com/545837124
The work is based on the dark, recurring dream I had for the past few nights. 10 monochrome photographs, along with muffled and repetitive pre-recorded sound effects, were utilised, in an attempt to recreate the fragmented scenes that occurred to me.
These dreams haunted me very frequently in my adolescence three or four years ago, especially during the gradual deterioration of my mental health. In concordance to my past, the past few nights led to my reflection about my current mental state, as well as to a somewhat delightful opportunity for me to explore this theme. I am convinced that every dream has its own hidden messages, waiting to be explored by us.
In The Interpretation of Dreams (1899), Freud stated that dreams could be considered as one of the methods to express our desires, as well as to process our inner, fragile emotions [see notes]. Through displacement, which is a psychological defence mechanism, negative emotions are redirected into another subject. For instance, my wish of being more outgoing was projected in a crowded cinema. However, the dream was gradually aggravated, leading to my initial enjoyment shifting into overwhelmingness, as one of the reversal displacement effects presented in this situation.
[notes] Freud, Sigmund (1899). The Interpretation of Dreams. Barnes & Noble.
“The box on fire is the new cage” – CHOI Chun-hei Jacky
Video Montage Sequence | 02’13’’ | [view the video]
The Box on Fire is the New Cage is a photo-collage sequence, filled with a few key symbolic elements. The elements are constructed in different ways to express my reflection on my city, Hong Kong. The distant individuals, the development, the system are some of the topics the work tries to point out.
I photographed 10 images with the intention of creating a collage digitally. I used no found images by others in order, first, to work against the tradition of collage and, second, to propose a game to the audience – to imagine the original photographs that were cut into pieces. I believe this dismantling of the bigger picture depicts consciousness in a better way, especially the chaotic.
Horizonal Dimension of the Narrative:
The narrative is constructed with two main story lines: A. elevator; B. collage of myself in different scenes.
Part one foreshadows that the elevator can self-multiply. In the next part, what happens inside the elevator is revealed. A box on fire would convert myself into A box on fire.
In the end, there is a time-lapse with still images. Time speeds up and the elevator is multiplied in arithmetic progression. What happens inside remains hidden.
2. Collage of myself in different scenes
In part one, the box on fire is on my head, with a bulldozer on top of it. It is threatening the women walking in the mall.
In part two, the bird transforms into an airplane.
In part three, the bird brings me to a pile of boxes on fire. I then transform into a box on fire. Then, the bird transforms into a box on fire too.
Part four is a color photo, showing a street scene, full of protesters. It is not a collage.
Vertical dimension of narrative:
There are some symbols used repeatedly. Different symbols are being superimposed by the act of collaging. Although there are many ways to interpret a symbol (the audience often has diverse interpretations), this is my interpretation: The box on fire implies the system/ the modern society. The bird suggests freedom, the bulldozer development.
Because I use collage, me with the box on fire on my head can mean many things: unfamiliarity/ loss of self-identity/ rage and dissatisfaction.
I want to break from tradition. That’s why part four is colored and not a collage.At first, I was skeptical. I feel uncomfortable that the reference I make with the photo is too obvious. However, it feels like the right decision for me to do so. Perhaps I just wanted to break from “the box on fire” so badly. The rupture this part caused goes well with my internal intention to create this work.
The power of stillness lies in experiencing and living through an unconscious moment of the otherwise constantly flowing time. It feels awkward and unnatural, but it empowers us to think actively and deeply about one single moment.
To read the entire Ventriloquist 2020 series: http://floatingprojectscollective.net/author/ventriloquists/