Dark Mofo: Motel Dreaming

As part of Dark Mofo, the Museum of Old and New Art’s (MONA) winter festival in Australia, one concept is offering a fully immersive experience designed to evoke dreaming. fluoro spoke with its creative directors about how other people’s dreams might also be our own.

Motel Dreaming explores the idea that places, events and communities have their own specific mythologies that are reflected in art, stories and in dreams. Motels have many associations as a place for dreams (and nightmares). Creative directors of Motel Dreaming, David Patman and Michelle Boyde, have roped in a selection of artistic collaborators to transform a 1950s-era motel into a large-scale dream incubator for guests.

For one night only, 80 guests will become participants in the dream-like environment. An Edwardian mansion on the property will hold a sound installation by Matt Warren, using nightmares collected from visitors. Lighting and video artist Jason James will take over the motel’s in-house cable TV system and room lighting to create personalised ‘dream pods’. While Veronica Kent and Sean Peoples, Melbourne-based visual and performance artists who collaborate together as ‘The Telepathy Project’, will create a piece which involves public sleeping and helping guests to record and share their dreams. There is also a mid-century house in the motel grounds, in which designer Danielle Brustman will transform the interior in homage to the fast-disappearing ‘Australian Dream’.

The result of the transformed space aims for the piece to take place in people’s heads while they’re asleep, as a response to what they experience when they’re awake, expressing a desire that the guests will dream together.

(f) How did the idea of Motel Dreaming originally come about?

(DP) Michelle and I are both interested in the mythology of motels and in the cultural aspects of dreaming. I grew up in Rosetta, Hobart near the MONA site, looking down on the Riverfront Motel we’re using for the event, as it happens. One of my friends from primary school lived there, so I went to visit him a few times, and I remember being fascinated by the idea that someone lived in a motel – this place where you would sleep under the same roof with 80 different strangers every night.

The current owners have kept it really true to its original 1950s design ethic. It also has a very unusual double arch that was built for the Queen’s first visit to Hobart in 1954. It seemed a perfect place to run an event about dreaming.

(MB) We are also keen on the idea that dreams and dream-like states could tell us about things that are important to us as a community or society – not just to the person who had the dream. A friend said ‘yeah, but other people’s dreams are boring’, which is true if you think about dreams purely as belonging to and being about the individual dreamer.

There is a long tradition of dreams being used to help people make decisions about things that affect the group as a whole. Tribal dream interpretation practices, and dream incubation are examples, but also the use of trance and altered states of consciousness, like the Oracle at Delphi. There’s also Carl Jung’s work on the collective unconscious, in which dreams can illustrate common patterns and archetypes. Motel Dreaming is about exploring the possibility that ‘other people’s dreams’ might also be our dreams.

(f) Why do you believe that hotels and their mythologies are so appealing within creative culture?

(MB) It’s interesting – hotels and motels are just a staple motif in certain kinds of stories and films – Psycho, most obviously, but also Lost Highway, Grand Hotel, Chelsea Girls, The Shining, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, even the Hotel California. There is a whole mythology. In these stories they always seem to involve the restraints of everyday life being lifted, so that the true desires can be expressed and not always in a comfortable way.

By their nature, motels exist on highways, the edge of town, liminal places – they are perfect places for dreaming, and I can see why they inspire artists.

(f) With reference to dreaming, are there connections between the Motel Dreaming concept and Surrealism?

(DP) The Surrealists were about celebrating the unconscious as it was expressed in various states – hallucinations, automatism, intoxication, the uncanny, dreams and art of course – partly as a way of freeing the mind in a similar way to psychoanalysis. Motel Dreaming is probably closest to the work of the French Surrealist Robert Desnos who hosted radio show in Paris in the 1930s. Listeners could write in with their dreams and he would turn them into radio plays. The idea was that individual dreams might have meaning for a bigger audience than just the individual. We are thinking of the whole Motel Dreaming event as what the motel itself might dream – hence the title – with everyone, artists and audience playing a role in creating and interpreting the dream.

(f) Do you believe there is a growing desire for art as an experience?

(DP) I think so, though I guess art has always been an experience – the interesting question for us is who is the author of that experience? At the events we’ve run, we’ve seen audiences keen to engage, to co-create the experience with the artists or performers. Funnily enough, we’ve become aware that there’s been a lot of interest recently in art events that the audience experiences while asleep. There’s a great article about ‘Dream of the Red Chamber‘ and other sleep-oriented shows’ in the Friday 16 May New York Times, seems like sleep is the new black.

The adult sleepover will be staged in Hobart, Tasmania’s intriguing highway-side haunt, the Riverfront Motel, offering an immersive and dream-like experience to the guests. Motel Dreaming takes place over the night of Tuesday 17 – Wednesday 18 June 2014.

fluoro is offering readers to experience other elements of the innovation Dark Mofo festival. The winner will experience the innovative festival and cutting-edge gallery, through a journey worth over $AUD200 that unites art, music and food.

For your chance to win an experience at Dark Mofo 2014, visit the giveaway page to enter.


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