Thursday, October 7, 2010

More on Dreams

"It has been said that the myth is a public dream, dreams are private myths. Unfortunately we give our mythic side scant attention these days. As a result, a great deal escapes us and we no longer understand our own actions. So it remains important and salutary to speak not only of the rational and the easily understood, but also of enigmatic things: the irrational and the ambiguous." -from Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman

My conversations with Zach Morris have inspired me to think about the relationship between dreams (this year’s theme for the Steampunk Haunted House) and art.

Dreams are immersive. We live them. Just like a haunted house, they require us to step into an entirely different world. Dreams have a seemingly irrational but very real sensory element, and, as a window into the unconscious, their imagery gives us a glimpse of a deeper knowledge that we normally don’t have access to.

In everyday waking life, we place great value and trust in rational thought. We make sense of the world by synthesizing "information"--facts that we believe are reliable and steadfast. What we see is usually what is. Rarely do we think about what lies beneath the surface, or the universal truths that carry a wisdom beyond the here and now.

As Freud and other psychiatrists active in the Victorian Age theorized, much dream symbolism is universal. Take nightmares, for example. Why is it that we are all familiar with frightening dreams of falling, of being chased by a killer, and of drowning? These are very basic fears that exist in the unconscious of us all. Like other deep-rooted themes, they fuel the myths that have emerged time and time again across geography and generations--showing up in legends, songs, paintings, and religious texts.

Jung believed that innate psychological archetypes--death, initiation, heroism--were part of the collective consciousness we all share and therefore surface in mythology and dreams. Significantly, he also noted their expression in the Major Arcana (that is, the first 22 cards) of the Tarot deck.

Art speaks the language of dreams. It illuminates these unconscious images and helps us have a deeper understanding of life. In a sense, the artist’s job is to make dreams public by sharing them with an audience, reminding us of our own private myths.

View this year's Steampunk Haunted House trailer below.

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