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Your Dreams: Interpreted and Drawn

A scientist and an artist interpret your dreams in new performance art piece.

DreamsID is a new project between dream scientist Professor Mark Blagrove and artist and illustrator Dr. Julia Lockheart.

Professor Mark Blagrove is director of the Swansea University Sleep Laboratory, and has been conducting research on sleep and dreams for 30 years. In studies at the laboratory, Blagrove's scientific work is focused on trying to uncover the memory sources of dreaming. In a previous post, I describe a study where participants were able to gain insight into their dreams through dream discussion. When participants in the study discussed the content of their dream in detail with Professor Blagrove, they were able to discover connections between their dreams and their waking life that they had not previously realized.

While this technique has proven useful in the laboratory, Blagrove is now taking the show on the road in a new performance art piece with artist Dr. Julia Lockeart, of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) Swansea College of Art. DreamsID (Interpreted and Drawn) is an extension of the success of the dream discussion groups in the lab, but with a much more in-depth discussion to find out what has been happening in the dream and what has been happening in waking life that might have triggered it.

DreamsID, Mark Blagrove and Julia Lockheart, used with permission
Source: DreamsID, Mark Blagrove and Julia Lockheart, used with permission

During the show, an individual from the audience is selected to sit with Professor Blagrove to recap and discuss their dream, while Dr. Lockheart sits to the side with an amalgam of art materials and several copies of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). The audience is invited to gather around to listen and observe the discussion.

As the individual starts to describe their dream, Dr. Lockheart is preparing to illustrate. She uses Freud's book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) to choose an appropriate page or two as a canvas, and tears these pages from the book to begin the dream illustration (with permission from publishers). The illustration itself takes place on a projector, so that the audience can see the drawing as it occurs live, along with the dream discussion.

DreamsID, Mark Blagrove and Julia Lockheart, used with permission
Source: DreamsID, Mark Blagrove and Julia Lockheart, used with permission

Blagrove continues the discussion, getting the dreamer to fill in details, making suggestions and noting subtle similarities between the dreamer's description of the dream and their waking life. Through this process, the dreamer, too, may come to some insight about the memory sources of their dream.

As this goes on, Dr. Lockheart carries on filling in the illustration from new emerging details, paying attention to key moments, colour, and form. She scans the text of Freud’s pages for key words that seem poignant and relevant. She circles certain words and builds them into the images, filling in the drawing around the text, so that it will later pop out and be legible for the dreamer.

The whole process takes about 20 minutes, and in the end, the dreamer can finally see their illustration. Dr. Lockheart points out the keywords and text she has outlined within the pages of illustration, and the dreamer sees their imagination take form in physical reality. The dreamer gets to take the illustration home, once it has been mounted and framed.

I was lucky enough to participate in DreamsID at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea, UK, and I can attest to the marvel of seeing the murky images of my mind come alive in Julia's illustration. I had a dream about a bubble gum pink monster that was coming after me in the hallways of my old highschool!

You can see my dream, and the dreams of many past participants, on the website

To keep up to date on DreamsID, follow the duo on Twitter @DreamsID2 and check out the website to keep track of upcoming events, including a show at the Swansea Science Festival on September 8th.

DreamsID, Artist Julia Lockheart, used with permission
Source: DreamsID, Artist Julia Lockheart, used with permission