We are such stuff / As dreams are made on…
I often dream of running and of running out of time. I’m not run away from anything. It seems to me more that I’m in a hurry to achieve something.
2020 / 2021
Shortly after the official announcement of the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, scientists and researchers from various disciplines began to explore the effects of the global health crisis and the circumstances that accompanied sleep dynamics, dream frequency and dream content. Unlike some previous collective traumatic situations, such as 9/11, this time the Internet and social networks became flooded with personal stories about bizarre dreams and nightmares, which,already in March 2020, prompted the artists Erin and Grace Gravely (San Francisco) to launch the DreamofCovid19.com website where users could share their dream experiences, in direct connection with the pandemic. A few months later, in June, the American scientist and researcher Deirdre Barret published a study entitled Pandemic Dreams, which included work with thousands of examinees and the examination of the impact of various aspects of the pandemic (fear of being infectedby unknown viruses, reactions to isolation, social, i.e. physical distancing, work from home and home education, disturbed sleep schedules, the influence of dramatic information and media images, restrictions on gatherings) on the dreams of individuals. The results of the research showed that the new biological and social dynamics played a role in opening the sphere of oneiric towardsa direct or a metaphorical contentual and visual processing of radically altered regimes of everyday life, suspension of habits and customary forms of interpersonal and wider social communications. Also, research has pointed to a kind of evolution of dream content, from the originally frightening performances caused by a mysterious, invisible threat, through dreams dominated by feelings of discomfort and impatience due to imposed epidemiological measures and restrictions, to the emergence of intense states of anxiety and concern as to how todeal withthe‘post-corona’ world. Once again, the ‘dream space’ and the phenomenon of dreaming have become an intriguing field for studying human nature and existence, our perceptions of reality and our attempts at understanding and reflecting it, either personally or through a collective sensitisation of the image of the world and society, which is acutely endangered and which is not only passing through changes but is also directly involvingus in them. The British researcher and psychologist Mark Blagrove sees the readiness of people to speak publicly about their dreams and openly share them with others in this moment of crisis as therapeutic action, but also as a hint of potential strengthening of social ties and increased empathy at a time when direct andlong-established ways of communication and physical interactions are challenged.
At the 55thVenice Biennale, representing the pavilion of the Republic of Croatia, the artist Kata Mijatović exhibitedher work Dream Archive– an interactive online platform where many visitors to this most important international art event could, with a simple command ‘enter’, add textual recordings of their dreams in the mentioned repository and share them with millions of other Internet users in a second. The work was, however, part of a larger and more complex project entitled Between Heaven and Earth, which at the same time represented a summary of the author’s previous artistic practice, but also marked a new phase in her long-term dealing with the phenomena of dream and dreaming – more precisely, the thematisation and research of the (co)relationship between our rational self, which shapes all spheres of human actions and life on the one hand, and the great and unexplored realm of the unconscious, which redefines the constructed images of our reality on the other. Symbolically stored in the domain of the intangible virtual reality, the archive as a kind of base for accumulation and release of the unconscious, manifested in dreams, does not bring, according to the author, only individually told and transmitted introspective content, but is, above all, established as a space of universal narrative and collective experience about the existence of creative internal, psychic forces which are beyond the control of the conscious;in other words, the unconscious essentially defines us as human beings. To date, over two thousand dreams have been added to the Archive in various languages from around the world, which the artist uses as a pretext and constructive material for a number of works performed in various media, from interactive and ‘site-specific’ installations, performances and videos, to objects and audio-forms. In a wide range of inscriptions of personal, intimate, enigmatic, traumatic and socially connotating, the selected dream content in the artist’s works is in the function of a subtle problematic-critical articulation of processes, mechanisms, norms, laws and contexts, in which our human and social existences take place.
And it has all started…
… When, during the period of making life-changing decisions (leaving her hometown of Baranja and her legal job, and enrolling at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence) and the outset of dramatic war events in this region, Kata Mijatović made notes of several of her own dreams – the most impressive of which was the one about going down to an abandoned mine from where she carried a pile of coal to the light of day – it has becomenot only an initiation into topics that wouldlater interest herin art, but also served as an ideational starting point for a group of works, mainly installations and performancesthat she has been realising since (Coal from the Unconscious and I am Not Conscious, courtyard space of the SC Gallery, Zagreb, 1999/2000; Cage –Ladder, Lauba, Zagreb,2005; Resume, MMC, Zagreb, 2006). The mentioned dream and the strong metaphor about the interaction of (un)conscious forces, or the transfer of the unconscious into the realm of the real, were equally important for the formation of the artist’s poetics, characterised by reduced presentations, simple gestures and performances, the clarity of images and symbolic potentials of chosen elements and motifswhich she has been using in the reinterpretation and recreation ofboth one’s own and other people’s dream content. Water, coal, salt, thecage, the pot, the ladder and the alarm clock, are just some of the carefully chosen building materials and objects that are often repeated in their works, introducing, very thoughtfully, the very act of their repetition as a constitutive factor in understanding the phenomenon, dynamics and nature of dreams. In this context, we should also mention the artist’s choice of media to convey a certain narrative and message, or to suggest a certain state to the viewer; for example, during the performance the artistoften includes an identical projected image that assumes the role of some kind of interface, connection and relationship between the internal and external worlds. In Kata’s work, that image signifies a sensitive, porous space of interaction between the matter of the unconscious and the reality of recorded scenes, sometimes additionally toned, in an enigmatic oneiric atmosphere, rhythmically writing and erasing textual records of dreams, as in the video works Božena’sDream and Vlasta’s Dream. “I would like toemphasise that,as human beings, we are conditioned by this duality; that there are worlds behind the conscious selfin us, behind the rational, inhabited by a vast unexplored psychic energy of which we do not know and, most interestingly, do not want to know almost anything.Highlighting the importance of researching the potential of the unconscious, Mijatović notes that older civilizations had possessed knowledge about it and made use of it, while today we are reducing it to intimate introspective stories, forgetting an entire field of possibilities in subtle sharpening of our perception of reality. Although without direct references in her work to the art of Surrealism and Dadaism or the Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytics chools, Mijatović believes that their research on a hidden side of the mind in the early 20thcentury was “the last great attempt to change the perception of consciousness in the art of Western civilisation.”“I am fascinated by the way in which a dream, in order to convey a message, arranges images, metaphors, the atmosphere and allegorical scenes. Everyone, regardless of education or experience, becomes an artist in his or her dream, and finally, the reason for conveying these messages is one and the same – to learn more about ourselves and the world in which we exist. What I mean is that the constructions that the conscious self builds when we wake up, very often only serve to maintain or upgrade the acquired spiritual comfort, which then does not have to have anything to do with the true reality in and around us.”Connected through potential subversiveness as well as the similarity of the mechanisms by which they convey messages of either unconscious matter or an art work, art and dreams remain, according to Kata, the only spaces where it is possible to challenge the imposed and different control systems, show little resistance to the “oversized rational constructions we live every day”, and to acquire personal and collective freedoms.
About ten years before the Dream Archive, the artist’s first encounter with the virtual sphere took place within the online project Dream Network, which is no longer available on the Internet, and whose content was based on the author’s personal dreams from the early 1990s. Visitors had the opportunity to navigate through a labyrinthine structure that introduced the narratives of the author’s dreams in nonlinear movements by simply clicking on some of the selected key concepts (along with photographs by the artist Zoran Pavelić), thus simulating the dynamics of dreaming and discovering complex,multilayered and enigmatic areas of the unconscious. The artist later integrated part of the mentioned online work into the video project The Drive, where certain terms associated to her dreams appear and disappear in a picture/shot of a winter landscape, recorded through a bus window on a journey from Zagreb to Osijek. In order to bring them closer to the viewer,Kata Mijatović connects the passing foggy scenes, in which words such as ‘house’, ‘boy’, ‘sea’, etc. alternately appear, into parallel experiential streams and states – a journey through real space and time and a journey through the suggested spaces of personal oneiric landscapes. Thanks to virtual worlds in which, according to the author, we tend to linger more and more, the word reality has taken on an entirely new meaning, because of the way it works – through pictures – it is getting closer to a dream, in which everything is possible, even moving away from the body of time, that is, making a ‘timeless jump’. It was this dream option that intrigued her to conceive the last in the group of online works, entitled Calendar 2020– an interactive web application she worked on during the months-long global lockdown caused by the pandemic, at a time when days and months became almost fused in uncertainties and expectations of the end of life during the state of emergency. Following the formally set calendar system, in which she placed selected dream stories of donors from the Dream Archive, the author once again gave the users of the application the opportunity tostep out of an understandable and implicit framework and order, similarly to a dream, and create paths within a network of various psychological spaces that are connected, with eventually common emotions of fear, hope, peace or basic existential questions about life and death. Taking the image of home as a metaphor for life, a place of being, and physical existence and duration, the artist also gave a kind of dedication to our community in the dimensions of the unconscious and dreams in the work/installation entitled Black Houses, White Shadows. The dense graffiti inscriptions of the names of dream donors on the black backgrounds of houses are further accentuated by inverse white, oblong shadows made of salt, a symbolic depiction of our deep inner projections, longings and reconsiderations of roles we have accepted in our social functioning. No matter how intimate or pertaining to subjective hermetic worlds KataMijatović’s works may at first glance appear, they primarily focus on our social existences in today’s hypnagogic atmosphere of manipulated reality, in which the time of ‘wakefulness’ will be measured by alarm clocks, while the opportunity to get away from it remains hinted at in the occasional bursts of the unexpected, like a sharp scream in the artist’s delegated performance TheGirls’ Choir.
 Quotation from William Shakespeare’s Tempest
Suzana Marjanić, Razgovor sa Katom Mijatović, Zarez, 16 December 2004, http://www.zarez.hr/clanci/razgovor-s-katom-mijatovic,accessed on 23 November2021
Ružica Šimunović, Tijelo u dijalogu –Ženske performativne prakse u Hrvatskoj, Kata Mijatović, p. 239, HS AICA and Durieux, Zagreb, 2016
Suzana Marjanić, Razgovor sa Katom Mijatović, Zarez, 16 December 2004, http://www.zarez.hr/clanci/razgovor-s-katom-mijatovic,accessed on 23 November 2021
Ružica Šimunović, Tijelo u dijalogu –Ženske performativne prakse u Hrvatskoj, Kata Mijatović, p. 238, HS AICA and Durieux, Zagreb, 2016