In 1964, 17-year-old Randy Gardner, a high school student, decided to carry out an experiment in which he was deprived of sleep. Attended by two classmates and monitored by Stanford researcher prof. William C. Dement, who kept him awake, Randy broke a record – he went without sleep for 264 hours (11 days). The experiment did not cause any long-term changes in his brain, which does not mean it did not influence the teenager’s mental and physical condition. Lack of sleep deregulated his cognitive and behavioural processes. He experienced moodiness, problems with concentration and short term memory, hallucinations and paranoia. Inadvertently, our brain controls the bizarre state known as sleep. The most fascinating question is how it knows when the time comes for sleep and how long it is supposed to last. How many hours should we lie down motionless and what is happening to our consciousness then? And what about the aspect of sleep which seems completely out of our control – the sleep projections known as dreams?
What are dreams? A fulfilment of hidden desires spilling out uncontrollably in our subconscious mind? A reflection of ourselves, projection of what we want to forget, afterimage of primeval instincts? Every culture ascribes a significant, mystic and metaphysical role to dreams. For ancient Israelites, dreams were messages from God, whereas in Chinese culture they carry an element of risk – they are the time when the soul leaves the body, which means that a sudden awakening may not give the soul enough time to return to the body. Cherokee Indians believe that dreams continue in the real world, so for instance if you dream of getting bitten by a snake, you should get immediate help after you wake up.
For Antonina Joszczuk dreams are certainly part of reality, mirages of fears suppressed in the waking life, of worries and everyday struggles. But they are also a liberation from norms and social rules. They distort and transform the artist’s daily life into phantasmagorical visions, in which everyone can become anyone, everyone can do and see anything, perhaps even too much. As Antoni Kępiński wrote, “The day is the rule of reason and sense, the night is the reign of mystery, wild passion, ecstasy, illumination and dread”.
As a little girl, the artist had to face the power of her own subconscious mind. Her dreams were never easy, they destroyed the order of reality. The unyielding visions from the borderline of wakefulness and sleep, often terrifying and grotesque, slowly became an impulse to confront their realm. “I befriended them”, says Tośka. The relationship became the only way to accept the fact that while asleep she is ruled by powers stronger than her conscious self. The exhibition Out of Control at SiC! BWA Wrocław Gallery is a way of reflecting dreams from the artist’s notes, dreams that she has been cataloguing for years. The resulting artworks are sometimes attempts to express the peculiar atmosphere of dreams, and sometimes their attributes, elements and characters become their starting points. Depending on the nature of a particular dream, Antonina looks for an appropriate technique of expression.
The projection of the artist’s dreams becomes a specific stage setting which creates a potently receptive context. Every work can be viewed separately, but together they form a strikingly unique installation taking us to the world of Antonina’s imagination. In it, pools of glass spill out onto the floor, black-and-white glass cocoons infect the space, sprouting out of unexpected nooks and crannies, and modules hanging down from the ceiling protect those delicate and personal phantasmagorias, lifting the veil of secrecy. And hiding them at the same time from the unsuspecting real world. Somewhere in the corner appears a black mound of glass coal with billows of artificial clouds hovering above it. In the visual notes, Wojtuś is called a faggot and Grandad has risen from the dead. They dissect us from reality to leave us eye to eye with a black-and-white autonomous universe resembling surrealist designs of the first cinematic avant-garde or a precise, expressive, disturbing simulacrum made from scratch in the Brothers Quay animated convention.
How to express the atmosphere or nature of dreams verbally? Is our language sufficient for such a task? Are its features, like e.g. polysemy, capable of reflecting the dreamy aura? Or perhaps the only way to show the scale and boundlessness of our imagination is through visual means? An Andalusian Dog, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s outstanding film is a visual expression of dreams of two great artists for whom a mere story of themselves would not do justice to their real internal perceptions.
We often hear “I’ll tell you my dream”. And most of us even listen, except we don’t understand much. A dream, which is a projection in itself, would benefit from being seen rather than told. In this way, through a visual experience, we would get closer to understanding the incomprehensible.
curatorial co-operation: Dominika Drozdowska
graphic design: Kamila Widz