Monday, August 27, 2007

Art as the Dream as Art

We experience dreams in much the same way that we experience a powerful piece of art. There is an emotional experience that we may or may not understand.  We are taken in by the images or words or sounds and for a moment, we forget about "waking life" and are immersed in a different world and therefore, a different part of ourselves that we may not usually have easy access to.

So it makes a lot of sense that the act of making a piece of art while in "conversation" with a dream can be a very powerful process that affects both waking life and the dreaming life.  When we dialog with the parts of ourselves that we don't always communicate with, it can have tremendous outcomes.

I'm currently re-reading the wonderful book Art as Medicine: Creating a Therapy of the Imagination by Shaun McNiff. In his book, he shares a wonderful story about the dialog between dreaming and art-making:
A woman...was making eight-by-six-foot paintings. She was a tall person, over six feet. With the group she discussed how she feels that she takes up too much space and experiences conflicts with others in relation to this. In an evening performance she rolled up one of her large paintings, placed a red rose on it, carried it in a slow procession accompanied by sacred music, placed the painting on an elevated surface, and knelt before it. That night she dreamed that a large ship stops in the middle of a village to board passengers. It moves deeply through the earth without effort and not subject to the control of a person. As the ship passes, the ground returns to its previous condition...The woman who feels too big, who is accused of taking too much space, and who just walked in a procession, dreams of a large ship that moves gracefully through the earth...In responding to this dream, we marveled at the way psyche amplified the actions of the day, sympathized with them, and transformed them into fascinating forms that re-framed the situation within a silent drama of imagery.
This passage beautifully illustrates my own experiences (and what I have witnessed in others) in making art with dreams.  There is a powerful dialog that can happen between our waking life and our dream life. When we can look at the pieces we make with as much respect as we give our dreams, we can integrate this new knowing and truly change our lives by healing old wounds and transforming how we are in the world.

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