Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences Press, Inc., New York City
Volume 13, Number 1, March 2003
Introduction to the Special Issue on Dreaming and the Arts
Richard A. Russo, M.A.1
I am pleased and honored to have the opportunity to edit this special issue on "Dreaming and the Arts"— an area that has been underrepresented in the field of dream studies. My hope is that the articles presented here will inspire readers to experience and explore the fascinating work being done by artists and writers and filmmakers who incorporate dreams in their creative work; to consider how the concepts and issues raised by the dream arts intersect with their own areas of study; perhaps even to try creating some dream art of their own.
Much has been made of how "creative" we are in our dreams, suggesting that the study of dreaming can shed light on the creative process, and vice versa. Bert States opens the issue with a fascinating meditation on "virtual worldmaking" in both dreams and art, stressing the continuity of dreaming with other modes of thought. Through the lens of probability logic, he considers how both dreams and fictions are created "on the run," the result of an ongoing series of choices based on "subjective probability ratios." Part of the "bizarreness" of dreams may result from such factors as the idiosyncratic experiences of the dreamer, or the confluence of more than one train of thought, with their associated probability ratios.
In my article on dream poetry, I examine the process of writing poetry from dreams, and show that a key difference between dream writing and dreaming is the presence of a particular kind of critical thought involving the formal concerns of poetry (a specialized set of probability ratios or conditional judgments, in States' terms). The dream is not a poem. I suggest that dream writing can be considered a form of non-interpretive dream work.
Fariba Bogzaran moves the discussion into the area of visual art, showing how a specific type of art ("Lucid Art"), exemplified by the work of Gordon Onslow Ford, relates to a particular aspect of lucid dream experience ("hyperspace lucidity"). She suggests that painting—and by implication all dream arts—can serve not only as a medium to record dream experiences, but also as a mode of inquiry into the nature of dreaming.
In exploring dreaming and the arts, we must be careful to distinguish between three different aspects of the creative process: creating the work of art, and the artist's experience during its creation; the work of art itself, its formal qualities and content; and the experience of the work by an audience. Bogzaran touches on all three aspects, by suggesting that the Lucid Artist is experiencing and exploring the dream world during the act of painting, that the resultant painting captures recognizable aspects of dream experience, and that the viewer is induced to have a sort of dream experience through experiencing the work.
The last two essays look at film, perhaps the most oneiric of arts, and form an interesting pairing. James Pagel and Dennis Crow present an interview with noted director John Sayles, who has used dream sequences in several of his otherwise naturalistic films. They then look at the technical aspects of how the dream sequences in two of Sayles's films were constructed, and suggest that an understanding of why they work may tell us something about dreams.
Kelly Bulkeley, on the other hand, takes a wide-ranging look at the work of David Lynch, a director whose entire oeuvre is dreamy. Bulkeley explores the many levels of dreaming in Lynch's films, and concludes by placing Lynch's films in the broader context of the role of film in our culture. Both pieces sent me racing to the video store to reexperience the works of these important filmmakers.
I hope readers will find these articles as interesting and provocative as I did, and be left with the sense that we've only glimpsed the tip of the iceberg, that there's a vast field still waiting to be explored. I began by stating that "dreaming and the arts" is an underrepresented area of dream studies. Part of the problem, I think, is that much of the existing work has been done within specialized disciplines. Dream researchers who look at the arts may not know much about the technical aspects of poetry writing, painting or filmmaking; writers, artists and filmmakers who work with dreams may not know much about psychology or dream research. This is an area that requires an interdisciplinary approach.
Furthermore, because so much depends on the experience of art, many reports are subjective or anecdotal. Much of the literature consists of either theoretical and critical studies, or accounts of personal experience. Earlier I said I'd be delighted if this special issue inspired readers to try their own hands at making dream art. I'll conclude by adding that it would also delight me if this special issue inspired researchers to consider how testable hypotheses might be generated from the exploratory work presented here.
Abstracts for this issue: Dreaming Volume 13, Number 1, March 2003
1 Correspondence should be directed to Richard A. Russo, 835 Peralta Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707; e-mail: email@example.com.
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