sleep consciousness

Singular/Plural the social aspect of dreams

Quotes form the book Common to all is Dreaming

Social and Logical Aspects of Dreams

I do not intend to demonstrate through associations of images the possibility of a symbolic language to interpret, or one that creates a particular impression. Instead, I want to suggest a possible logical structure that produces a relationship between dreams. The fact that the dreams of certain persons are to be recorded, narrated and listened to means we can bring the dream – an event that is not subject to conventional space-time dimension – back precisely into that dimension.

But my work does not claim or desire to be an objective proof, even when it refers to a possible logic of interpretation. It makes use of dreams to construct a situation, or more precisely an occurrence that generates the idea of a possible communication amongst dreamers.

In dreams there is always an analogy, a person, a story, a shared subject. The presence of similar or analogous elements in the dreams of different people means that a territory exists where these elements can at least be compared. A shared place, perhaps a pre-existing container or a territory with elastic boundaries, in a continuous state of transformation.

Just as the occurrences of dreams are brought back to reality, so the occurrences in waking life take part in dreams; everyday life, which consists in a set of relationships born of encounters with different individuals, continues at night due to the objective and inevitable fact that in dreams the most surreal situations, death, the most remote memories, are interfaced with the facts and people that accompany us on an everyday basis.

In their purity dreams are inevitably liars because it is not possible to remember them exactly as they happen, and in most cases, we remember details or images that are “translated” through an effort of restitution to reality, where the narrator of the dream recreates connections and links that were not necessarily there in the dream itself. This depends to some extent on our free will, and to some extent on the dream itself.

All this leads to one consideration: waking life intersects much more with nighttime existence than we think or imagine, and this attenuates the separation between the world of the day and the world of the night; the world of dreams enters everyday life and vice versa. In formal terms, my work is manifested through an imagery-based conception (connected to intuition and expressed through an atmosphere) whose counterpart is a logical structural aspect. This is the approach I have applied and intend to develop in my projects on dreams: in my first installations, the conceptual character come to grips with the visionary character, being – in many cases – nothing more than white walls from which dream narratives were whispered. Today my work concentrates on the imaginative process generated by the dreams of a community of dreamers. The process develops in four phases: the phase of the “contributions,” namely the presentation of each through images, words or music; the phase of “restitution” through the narration of dreams from the previous night or the past; and the phase of “elaboration” of the dreams with the division into small groups, through a collective process of “condensation” of the images, working on connections, similarities and differences. In the final phase, called “distilling,” when the group reassembles, we set out to identify a shared ground, where the dream-reality relationships triggered by the experience of the individual participants can emerge.




Reality-Dream Connections

The recognition and identification of connections between what happens during dreams and what happens in waking life are the raw materials of my research, which is part of a wider-ranging study on the relationships that exist between “sensory perception” and “inner awareness.” It is necessary to approach these two aspects through the practice of imagination and dreaming, to then sum them up in a single experience that includes both. Imagine-feel-intuit seem to be the words that best evoke the condition through which we enter into relation with the dreamed image, which presents itself in the dream as if we were physically perceiving it. But imagine-feel-intuit is also the way through which people who have a shared experience in the recollection of the dream can meet in a mysterious, invisible agora. These encounters are ratified and confirmed by real events that establish a dialogue with dreamt events. Each of us, interpreting these events, will be able to imagine-feel-intuit those of the group that are closest to us in terms of elective affinities, to seal a shared node in the dense network of paths formed by individual destinies. This experience helps us to become aware of the fact that the relationships between people – of friendship, work, politics, social and cultural contact – cannot be lived exclusively through the idea of cause and effect (I do something to obtain something else, I implement a strategy to arrive at something, I work to obtain individual gain). We have to remember that reality as we are learning to know it – and as other thinkers and philosophers have glimpsed – is complex; logic – or at least the form of logic we know today – is not sufficient to understand it. Time can no longer be interpreted in a linear way, energy can no longer be seen in terms of continuity, biological evolution in terms of constancy, the universe in terms of an idea of uniqueness. There are temporal pockets or bubbles, energy is discontinuous, the history of biology implies evolutionary leaps, and there is talk of multiverses or parallel universes.

I mentioned that in my research two aspects are examined separately and then combined in a single experience. One of the aspects relates to the relationship between flows of imagination inside a community. In the case of the imagination-dream relationship, in essence I have worked with relatively small communities of dreamers. By a community of dreamers I mean a set of individuals who have decided to concentrate on their own dreams and those of others for a certain period of time in a given space. In some cases, after having shared the dreams among a few people, the dreamers have given rise to other relations with more numerous communities. The other aspect is that of investigating the shared territory that emerges from the encounter of persons hailing from different contexts, bringing with them different kinds of knowledge.

To go further it is necessary to explain what, in my view, is the concept of art underlying this idea: aesthetic, emotional and conceptual values do not necessarily have to be seen as the expression of individual will. This happened in an era in which people had to construct an identity for themselves that would allow them to interpret nature and themselves in such a way as to develop objective thought through reason, an identity that led them to trace a boundary between what is real and what is not – between what can be talked about and what should be kept silent – as Wittgenstein would have said. Instead, associating the moment of creation with a multiple will of simultaneous and synchronic occurrences corresponds today to defining a human identity as a fluid specificity, with boundaries that cannot be set. This also happens for the work, from the moment in which all the elements that coincide in the synchronic occurrence have an importance, are determined in different ways, although no single one prevails over the others.

It is important to understand if my experience induces those who participate to reconsider their own position with respect to the work. Above all, for those who are extraneous to the more recent conceptual developments in art theory, the idea is to understand how the association between creation and art does not have to be grasped only through the triggering of contemplative relations, belonging to the sphere of displaying and showing, but can give rise to a set of complex experiences, in which contemplation, viewing, represents just one particular aspect. The imagination is the common ground between he who shows and he who sees; it cannot be associated only with the author. No form of passive imagination exists connected to the object, just as there is no active form connected to the subject. Imagination is not the effect of viewpoint, but of the entire scene. It is the occurrence. The artist is inside the same scene as the person that observes his work. The work, instead of manifesting the authorial status of the artist, presents itself as a medium between reality and imagination. In a certain sense it retreats, escaping from the productive presumption of the creator to become a possible junction, a crossroads of occurrences.

This dissolves the idea of the artist as the one who manifests a creative will and accomplishes the work or, more precisely, finishes it. Instead, through a maieutic approach, the artist can indicate how to watch over those visions, voices, projections, emotions and passions he shares with others. The aspect of creation is not connected to a personal, individual choice. The attempt is to discover in individuals those intuitions that make the terrain of occurrence fertile, of coincidence, that awaken the spirit in encounter and being together, through attained awareness but also through the levity of play.

To see others as part of ourselves. To recognize a plural vision of oneself, where the subject is defined through the other. As Jean-Luc Nancy says: “In other words, what is at stake is no longer thinking:

– beginning from the one, or from the other,

– beginning from their togetherness, understood now as the One, now as the Other,

– but thinking, absolutely and without reserve, beginning from the ‘with,’ as the proper essence of one whose Being is nothing other than with-one-another [I’un-avec-l’autre].

The one/the other is neither ‘by,’ nor ‘for,’ nor ‘in,’ nor ‘despite,’ but rather ‘with.’ This ‘with’ is at once both more and less than ‘relation’ or ‘bond,’ especially if such relation or bond presupposes the pre-existence of the terms upon which it relies; the ‘with’ is the exact contemporary of its terms; it is, in fact, their contemporaneity.”[i]


[i] Jean-Luc Nancy, Essere Singolare Plurale, Giulio Einaudi Editore, Torino, 2001. Translated by Robert D. Richardson and Anne E. O’Byrne as Being Singular Plural, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.



Camera and video frames by Daniela Manzolli