Earlier this year I swapped some books with Debbie Ding, a creative artist and researcher from Singapore who always inspires me with her projects. I sent away a book on the building history of Amsterdam and Of Grammatology by Derrida. In return I got Dream Syntax. I'm afraid I got the better deal, because Dream Syntax is fascinating reading, more captivating than Derrida.
Highly recommended. You can order it here: dreamsyntax.bigcartel.com. I read the book on my way to work, I took it with me on holiday and finally, yesterday, I took it for a photo-shoot in Rotterdam and experienced some interesting synchronicities.
Dream Syntax as an interesting book
Dream Syntax is a collection of dreams in the form of maps. There are 102 maps and stories of dreams from a period of 6 years. It is published as a limited edition of 500 (individually hand-numbered) books. In the 102 dreams I found 35 very memorable episodes, marked by the many coloured post-it notes.
Our memories of our dreams are no less tangible than the memories of the real places that we remember ourselves once inhabiting, places which, in reality, exist only in our imagination.
Dream Syntax as autobiography by proxy
The dreams give a very intimate profile of the artist. Though no "real life" details are given, the dreams indicate the end of one relationship (with Simon) and the beginning of a new relationship (with George). There are visits to malls, museums and art fairs. There are computers, software and 3-D printers. There is travel by airplane, boat, car and metro. There are office-hours, parties, hangovers, friendships and family-events. Many dreams are creative and could be used for performances. Some dreams are very funny. And there is even some sex.
Dream Syntax as guidebook
After reading the book and marking the most relevant episodes I took the book for a walk and a photo shoot through Rotterdam. I tried to find some places that were mentioned in the book. Walking inside Debbie Ding's dream-space was an interesting and multi-layered experience.
Finding a mall was easy:
It is Christmas day, and I am inside Plaza Singapura. Nearly everything in the mall is closed because it is a public holiday, but I need to buy some flavoring for the shortbread I want to bake later that day. Only the big chain shops are open and I walk first into a Guardian hoping they will have diversified into more random products. ... None of the flavoring bottles have smells!
And the book may have inspired me to buy a cinnamon roll, but I didn't expect it to be the first shop I saw in the mall:
I wake up in a house in London with a hangover. I am confused about why I am waking up in the house alone, so I go to the fridge to see what food there is to eat. In the fridge there are two identical cream buns, as if I bought two buns for two people, except there is only one person in the house, which is myself.
But I didn't expect to meet a Buddha there:
... the computer has turned into a Giant Buddha head with a mouth into which I must insert my hand with the CD to deposit it. A sign on the Giant Buddha warns me that the Giant Buddha will not hesitate to eat my hand if I have inserted a faulty CD.
And I certainly didn't expect to see an old man with a walking aid in the metro, just like in the dream:
I am leaving the tube station and have just passed the turnstiles. I am making my way up the stairs to street level, when I notice an old lady with a funky walking aid. It looks like a hundred tiny pneumatic robot legs which are ushering her along the surface with tinny clackety sounds. She scuttles past and overtakes me and exits on the left exit of the station. ...
Dream Syntax as M-theoryThe book does not mention it explicitly, but maybe all the dream maps are connected in one coherent dream-space. And maybe this dream-space is not bound to any individual but is shared among all dreamers. So maybe - if everyone started making and sharing dream-maps - we could connect up all these personal fragments and build a great new map of a parallel world. Maybe there exists an undiscovered unifying M-theory of dream-space:
Witten dubbed this conjectural theory M-theory, with the explanation that 'M stands for magic, mystery or membrane, according to taste. Witten's most grandiose conjecture of 1995 was that there is a single underlying theory that reduces in six different special limiting cases to the five known superstring theories and the unknown M-theory. This largely unknown general theory is also often referred to as M-theory and yet another explanation for the M is Mother as in 'Mother of all theories'.Dream Syntax for further research
I will certainly go for more walks with the book. To discover where a female dream-space overlaps the brutal Rotterdam cityscape. See if I can do a Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius trick and infect the Dutch city with dreams from the subconscious of Singapore.
I could compare the dreams with the drawings of Jonathan Borofsky. They are certainly different.
I could analyze the topography of my own dreams. Somewhere I still have a dream-diary from 20 years ago. I'm certain that in my dreams I often return to the same places or neighborhoods, often Prague or Italy.
Not Even Wrong
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius