Fabula (Journal of Visual Culture & HaFI, 40)
This is the fortieth instalment of a collaborative effort by the Journal of Visual Culture and the Harun Farocki Institut, initiated by the COVID-19 crisis. The call sent to JVC’s editorial board, and a wide selection of previous contributors and members of its extended communities, described the task as follows: “There is a lot of spontaneous, ad hoc opinion-making and premature commentary around, as to be expected. However, the ethics and politics of artistic and theoretical practice to be pursued in this situation should oblige us to stay cautious and to intervene with care in the discussion. As one of JVC’s editors, Brooke Belisle, explains: ‘We are not looking for sensationalism, but rather, moments of reflection that: make connections between what’s happening now and the larger intellectual contexts that our readership shares; offer small ways to be reflective and to draw on tools we have and things we know instead of just feeling numb and overwhelmed; help serve as intellectual community for one another while we are isolated; support the work of being thoughtful and trying to find/make meaning…which is always a collective endeavour, even if we are forced to be apart.'” TH
By Jordan Baseman
Narrated by Dr. Deirdre Barrett, dream researcher, Harvard Medical School
“I think that a chronically sleep deprived society has been catching up on sleep. The strongest correlate of dream recall and dream vividness is how many hours you sleep. People are recalling more dreams, they are longer dreams, they’re more vivid dreams. Both emotionally and in visual imagery. They’re more bizarre. More people are having powerful dreams that get their attention than in typical times.
Any crisis tends to stir up our dream-life for psychological reasons. We, we definitely get more anxiety dreams. But in most crises, we sleep less. All of our dreams are just thinking in a very different brain-state, very visual and metaphoric and intuitive, rather than logical, and linear, and verbal.
There were an awful lot of dreams, especially early on, about just coming down with the virus or thinking you might be coming down with the virus. But then probably more interesting were all the metaphors for the virus. One common one was bugs. And I wouldn’t say one dream stood out so much, it was just cumulatively the number and variety of bug attacks on different dreamers in their dreams. Swarms of flying insects like bees or hornets would be coming at some people. Armies of cockroaches running towards them. Dreams with different kinds of masses of wriggling worms. Most people were really being attacked by the bugs. Others would just open a door to a room or pull back the covers and there would be huge numbers of bugs that were experienced more as disgusting and dirty and disease ridden than literally attacking, potentially going to kill you because there was contamination.
But lots of the bugs were, were swarming at and attacking the dreamers. And a few were dramatic, bizarre and sometimes individual bugs, like there was a giant grasshopper with vampire fangs attacking one woman. And there was another woman who said that she had kind of a false awakening in her bedroom and, she saw a large tarantula crawling through the mail slot into the bedroom. She remarked that she had no mail slot anywhere in her house, much less in the bedroom. But in the dream the tarantula was coming in through the mail slot in the bedroom wall.
Many of the other metaphors I saw, like natural disasters, tsunamis, earthquakes and tornados and hurricanes and wildfires breaking out, I saw those after 9/11 and I’m seeing some of them now. But the bug attacks seem rather specific to Covid-19. It’s partly the slang term we say of getting a bug when we’re getting sick, especially with a virus. Also, just a swarm of lots of tiny things that cumulatively can harm or kill you makes bugs a very good metaphor for the current crisis.”
Fabula, the film
Jordan Baseman is an artist, living and working in London, he is represented by Matt’s Gallery London.
August 27th, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes