Dream of Unfair Blame was a winning artwork at the annual Research as Art competition at Swansea University and was exhibited at the Royal Institution, London, from September 2018 to January 2019. The panel of judges was Professor Gail Cardew, Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Royal Institution; Flora Graham, Digital Editor of New Scientist; Barbara Kiser, Books and Arts Editor, Nature, and Dan Cressey, Journalist, Nature. It will next be exhibited in a touring exhibition to Texas.
Thank you to everyone who attended this event, to share a dream or to be in the audience!
Bird Island Dream
Dream of a hotel with hearty food and drink that becomes the apocalypse
Dream of a tsunami
Dream of train journeys and a factory
Dream of Briefly Seeing Mum Again
"The dream is about me sitting in a waiting room, while some member of my family has asked me (a voice that I know, but I didn't see the face) why I look so happy, and also why I was so excited. I replied that I have an appointment with my mum who died when I was 2 years old. My mum and her mum appeared a few minutes later standing by the door, looking young and very healthy, white faces, red cheeks and black hair, tied up at the back. But it was only for a few minutes if not few seconds when my nanny keeps telling my mum, "Time is up, let's go," and pulling her by her hand. I was so disappointed, and the same voice asked why I didn't look happy and I said I was so excited to see my mum and have a chat with her but my nanny took her away from me and didn't let her stay longer with me."
Aliens' garden and dragonfly dream
Dream: "I am lying naked on an operating table surrounded by doctors or research staff who are all wearing brown laboratory coats with a gold flash across the front. They are preparing me to go to another planet and they are measuring me and preparing me for another atmosphere. There are computers and other technical machinery in the room.
I am then on a barren planet, surrounded by a crowd of people. All the people there are unable to cope with the environment. I show them how to plant seeds and suddenly flowers sprout up before our eyes. They all fall to their knees and touch the earth. Then above me a giant dragonfly raises up. I am happy."
Green window and geometrical drawings dream
Dream: "I am in a street in Cambridge and look into a shop window and see planning architectural drawings that are geometrical, very neat and precise. I am surprised to realise that my art history tutor has made these drawings, as she is not such an organised person. I see the green of the window as I look in to the shop window and the city of Cambridge beyond. I realise that there is a strong presence behind me. I am aware of the presence but do not turn to look at him or her."
Empty village, Beatles and decanter dream
Dream: "My partner and I are driving through a ghost village, just empty shells of houses, like a village requisitioned by the army with the inhabitants forcibly removed. My partner or maybe we have bought a very small, stone-built cottage, I’m wondering what we do with it if the building is surrounded by ghostly, crumbling shells. Next I’m watching something about the early days of the Beatles and the four of them living together in one small room, they are play-fighting and joshing with each other and I think what a jolly time they had when they were all good friends. My partner and I are then with a small group of people. An oldish man is telling us about the golden liqueur he is holding in a cut-glass decanter. He pours me a small amount. I take a sip and the man suddenly pours the contents of the decanter on the ground. I feel alarmed at this and immediately chuck mine too."
Polo-headed men and entwining strands dream
Dream from childhood: "I am lying in bed in a white cotton nighty. I am a child. I become aware that beside me are two men with polo mints for heads. They are malevolent and loom over my bed peering at me. I am in the room and there seem to be filaments, like the strands from a spider’s web, attached to me, holding me down and restricting my movement. They are red like veins or seem blood filled. I feel constricted."
A dream of unfair blame
Dream: "I push a shopping trolley down a steep hill and it almost causes an accident. Three angry men beat up a man who they think pushed the trolley. I hide in a house and can see the attack through a window. The attackers leave and I go outside and see the man lying on the ground, he is almost dead. He is in a dip in the road. I do not want to admit my involvement as they would then attack me. They have covered him in black oil and his face is half-submerged in the oil. I wonder how to help him without letting my involvement in the near-accident be known."
The British Psychological Society funded an all day symposium at Swansea University to include DreamsID group sessions and discussions on the assessment of the presence of metaphors in dreams. The dreams were discussed as part of group sessions, thanks to Michelle Carr for writing summaries of the dreams.
The Chicken Run Dream
Dream of a husband and wife criminal team that steal chickens. To do so, the husband drives their car along the highway, and the wife hangs underneath the car stealing chickens (and cows?) as they drive by. But the husband is planning to double-cross the wife, he will put two abrasive rectangles under the car which will peel the skin of the back off her knees. In the next scene the husband and wife are at the house of an old woman, pretending to visit a grave on her property (but are really there for a different concealed reason). The husband goes to the bathroom and a little boy who looks sickly is there. The husband tries to carry the boy on his back but his legs are dragging along behind him.
Next scene: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his partner are hanging on the outside of a car which a priest is driving. They are forcing the priest to marry them, and The Rock’s partner is hanging onto him by sticking his finger through his neck. The dreamer (as a viewer) is frustrated because she can’t see what happened in the Chicken Run, she rewinds the scene to look for clues, and hears a gun shot off in the distance, signalling that something went wrong with the Chicken Run.
Dream of a giftshop, cafe and male Amazonians in the jungle
Dreamer is entering the forest of the Wizard of Oz, which she had previously told some colleagues that she planned to do, because she ‘really likes trees’. When she reaches the forest, the trees bow down their branches and form a bridge so that she can enter. She reaches a clearing where a tacky tourist gift shop appears, three Amazonian men try to sell her souvenirs, but she declines. She realizes that these men are in cahoots with the forest, and if she doesn’t buy something, the forest may become more dangerous. Nevertheless, she continues on. She comes abruptly to a second clearing, which has a cafeteria filled with people. She realizes they are playing a game and wants to score some points while she’s there. She has a hockey stick now and is smacking fruit out of everyone’s hands for points, including a nice girl from college. The dreamer feels a bit bad, but competitive.
Dream of children and questioning reality
Dreamer was in a messy bedsit with milk cartons on the floor, she was there with her daughter. She notices a toy dog on the floor, which comes to life and jumps up on the bed playfully. She wonders if anyone else can see it or if she is hallucinating, so she takes out her phone to take a video for evidence. When she looks back at the video, there is a scene with a different dog playing on the grass. She is questioning her sanity. In the next scene she is in the car with a friend and they are driving on a very bumpy road. At some point a cheerful friend of hers appears outside the window of the car. At another point there is a group of poverty-stricken children. She finds herself judging these children but then decides it’s not right to be judgmental.
We were invited to hold 30-minute DreamsID sessions across the afternoon and evening at the Swansea Science Festival. It was a very busy festival, we had many people in the audience. The seven drawn interpretations of dreams are pictured below, with the texts of the dreams.
Dream of cat who had died
"I am in a dark interior, looking at my cat Twiggy. (In real life Twiggy died about three years' ago.) I'm surprised she's alive but she looks distressed. Her eyes are really big, and she's not looking at me or engaging in any way. Her stance is rigid, she has very large eyes and tiny paws, striped legs and tail. She is a green / grey tabby with black spots (colour of a Messerschmitt).
I am talking to a woman who seems to own Twiggy now. She is saying that Twiggy doesn't really get the love and attention she needs, as all the people in her family have their own pets. I feel awful, but I still say politely and reticently 'we could always have Twiggy back if you prefer' to the woman. We are in a dark interior, I can't make out the woman's face. It is no-one I know. It left me feeling uneasy rather than comforted. I am annoyed I didn't behave more decisively and take Twiggy back."
Dream of running along a wall
"I am running next to a wall with grey breeze-blocks. In the dream I am running aimlessly but had the thought, every time I had this dream, that I would not be able to wake up. I can see over the wall, the sky is blue."
Recurring dream of a beach with water coming in
"I am lying on a beach on a warm sunny day, very happy and enjoying the time. Suddently I realise that the tide is coming in around me, quietly with no waves, sweeping in like an estuary on both sides. There are rocks on both sides and I begin to panic. I try to run towards the back of the beach before it engulfs me. I keep falling over obstacles in my path and the panic increases, but I eventually get clear of the water. This is a recurring dream."
Daughter's dream of mother playfully throwing snake at her on a beach
"I was walking along a beach and seashore. It was very sunny. I was wearing very little clothing, just a bikini (unusual for me to walk like that, in a bikini, but I was very comfortable). I became aware of my mother behind me and it became apparent that she was carrying a snake. I don't like them! I felt scared, scared of her and the snake and I started to run. I ran faster and faster and looked back and saw my mum smiling. She playfully threw the snake high in the air, in an arc, at me. I looked up, the sun was very bright, and I knew the snake was going to land on my shoulder or back. I screamed and woke myself up!"
Dream of a gift of a painting
"I was in work in a crisis room. A service user walked in and I began to speak about my life, which is a role reversal. After I finished speaking the service user symbolically presented me with a paining/drawing/image. The image had a fish out of water which had eyes down its spine. The water behind the fish was blue, and with green ripples and pink ripples. There were two mountains either side which were orange and purples and green. In the sky there was a bright full moon with crescent moons either side and a geometric webbing across it. The water ran between the mountains to the sea, where there was a horizon."
Dream of old person in bed with me
"An old horror-movie-feeling lady who I can physically feel gets into my bed. Her hair is wispy and her skin like crepe-paper - it's as if she has risen from a coffin but is very much alive. I can feel her in my bed. All is grey/black/white, like a sepia film. We are on our backs but looking at each other. Once she recognises that I am not afraid and do not fear her she fills out, becoming more health, and gets colour. I then wake. It was a morning dream."
Happy, writing in medieval room, looking out of window
"I am writing at a desk in a medieval castle. I have a rich red and green dress on. All is very comfortable and privileged. I look out of the window, there is a village in which everyone is content and happy."
We were filmed and interviewed by Wales Online while discussing and illustrating a recent dream of Michelle Carr. Michelle is a researcher at the Swansea University Sleep Lab. She had had a dream of being in her old school and a young man changing into a bubblegum pink monster.
The article and film of the event are at:
Julia's illustration of Michelle's dream is below. The link above also has a speeded-up film of the illustration being made.