Creating Dream Maps at Djerassi | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University

Creating Dream Maps at Djerassi

By Lydia Nakashima Degarrod

I brought to Djerassi recordings of over 400 memorable REM dreams of more than 300 residents of the Bay Area of San Francisco that I had made over a period of 5 years as part of my anthropological research on urban emotions.  My original plan had been to create during my residency an art installation of maps that show the traces left by these phenomena in cities to complement my current writing of an ethnography of urban emotions.  Being at Djerassi has somewhat altered my plans.  


As I as drove to the ranch, I saw the beauty of the hills. Later as I took a walk, breathing the clean air and watching birds, snakes and lizards, I knew that I needed to adapt the artwork to the different rhythms and flows created by nature that I was observing.  I put away the acetate paper and the acrylic paints, and I retrieved the bag of mulberry bark fibers I had brought with me and the blender that I had packed at the last minute, materials and equipment from my most recent previous art project. 


Following the rhythms of the countryside, I have been making paper slowly and patiently. I dry each sheet I pull from the sieve, and then carefully stich the pieces together to create a larger sheet.  The main topic of showing the emotional traces of nightmares and night terrors – as well as wonderous, lucid, consoling and healing dreams has remained.  My process however has changed to a more sensory involvement in the making of the images. 


I have found that in the creation of the papers and in the painting of the dreamscapes or maps, I have seen glimpses of the ephemeral nature of dreams as I watch my hands swirl the water to mix the white, feather-like mulberry fibers in the vat, and also later when I see the watercolors dissolve quickly in the water. I have also recreated the numerous walks I conducted in the places where the dreamers reside through stitching and knitting with white threads on the mulberry paper.  The lines created by these urban walks have united with my walks at Djerassi, both of xthem leaving invisible traces on the paved roads and in the hiking trails with which they merge, creating a mesh of lines of my movements.  Each one contains stories and memories that I have retraced on the mulberry papers.