Dream Director

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This month courtesy of Fierce!, award winning Warwickshire art gallery Compton Verney, will play host to a fascinating participatory project, The Dream Director,  by Luke Jerram which aims to create “art in dream space“.

In the early Noughties, this Bristol based installation artist carried out scientific research with sleep psychologist Dr. Chris Alford at the University of West of England, in order to investigate the effects of sound and music on dream experiences. Building on this research, Jerram produced the spectacular Sky Orchestra which featured as part of  the 2004 Fierce! Festival in which seven hot air balloons flew across the Birmingham skies at dawn, each playing a different element of a musical score created by the composer Dan Jones, to create an all encompassing audio landscape.

On Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th August, from 8pm-9am, you can participate in Jerram’s newest and most intimate immersive installation to date. The Dream Director, which has been on tour since November 2008 (visiting the ICA, London; Fact, Liverpool; and Da La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea), invites around 20 people per night to sleep overnight in the Compton Verney gallery, the tour’s final stop.  Participants bed down in specially designed pods and don eye-masks which detect when the sleeper reaches the Rapid Eye Movement stage of sleep – the dreaming stage. Sensing this, the mask triggers ambient sounds which are played through small speakers mounted in the pod. Each pod contains different sound tracks, but sleepers are not informed of what they have heard until after they have awakened and recorded their dream experiences in a diary.

Paul Bignell, Science correspondent for the Independent newspaper, took part in the project when it came to the ICA in London, and reported that although he had been cynical from the outset, his dream of “an agreeable drive around the countryside in an open-top car…was remarkably close to the sounds they played in my pod” (The Independent, 23/11/08). However, Bignell raises the question you may be asking yourself – however fascinating, what real use or purpose can such an experiment have? Scientists have discussed the potential benefits to sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder…but is this straying too far from the concept of “art in dream space” in which the artist himself frames the project. In this sense Jerram’s work raises numerous questions surrounding the boundaries and interactions between the often seemingly opposing worlds of science and art.

If you fancy taking part in this project, tickets are £25 (including refreshments and breakfast) and you can book online at www.comptonverney.org.uk or call 01926645500.

To get a taste of what you’re letting yourself in for, you can watch a short film of a past sleep-over event which took place at Arnolfini on 21 July 2007 at www.dreamdirector.net/media.html

If participation in the sleep-over proves a little too daunting, you can also visit a newly designed installation based on the previous night’s sleep-over which will be open throughout the day on Saturday 29th August and will include written information, images, film and audio. There will also be a a talk at 1pm on the Saturday by Luke Jerram and sleep psychologist Dr. Chris Alford who will discuss the ideas and research which have shaped this and other projects  aimed at influencing participants’ dreams. Tickets cost £13 (concs £11, members £5), and include gallery admission.

While you’re at Compton Verney it is well worth taking a look around the other exhibitions running at  the gallery, especially the exciting new exhibition launched this week – Surrealism and Contemporary Art: Subversive Spaces, which brings together a selection of works by the key players in the Surrealist movement alongside the work of contemporary artists who continue to explore Surrealist concepts and aesthetics (on display now until 6th Sept).

Sweet dreams!

Words: Joanna Reynolds

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