Art | November 08, 2019

Once in a dream I sat reclined in an old-fashioned dentist’s chair at the center of an empty stage illuminated by a single white spotlight. Over my right shoulder, a kangaroo in a surgical mask, its eyes large and brown, with glamorous lashes, held in its five-fingered paw a whirling drill. An audience dressed in fine Victorian evening wear shouted “Bravo” as the kangaroo filled my molar with gold. While many theories have tried to explain the phenomenon of dreams—that they represent a dramatization of personal concerns, a processing of intense emotions, a rehearsal for threatening situations, or, most recently, random neural activity—I woke with a feeling of pure pleasure, delighting in the power of my imagination to stage a comic surrealist tableau. Nietzsche wrote, “The wonderful illusions of the world of dreams, in the creation of which each man behaves as a real artist, are the premise of every kind of visual art.” The absurdist drama staged by my unconscious mind reminds me of the crucial role of dreams in the formation of some the most interesting art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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