Dream of boy turning into a circling, dying black bird, told at the Swansea Science Festival, 24th October 2021
In the dream I know I have a girlfriend who has a young daughter, but neither of them appear in the dream. Somehow I am responsible for the death of the daughter. It is not entirely clear if she is ‘fully’ dead, but it seems so and I am devastated. My girlfriend is only in her 20s, I feel somewhat sheepish about this in the dream and don’t want too many people to know as it kind of evokes the image of the wealthy, horny old man with a young attractive woman, but that’s only a minor unimportant point. What is important is that I love my girlfriend dearly and deeply and I am afraid of losing her, afraid that she will leave me, having caused her daughter’s death. I’m beginning to think about a way to bring her daughter back to life. At that point a boy approaches me. The boy is very timid, somehow deeply closed-in on himself, limp and heavy. He is kind of ‘dead’ already. I consider that he will make a good guinea-pig to try out the method of bringing my girlfriend’s daughter back to life.
I tie a long string around his neck, at which point the boy begins to turn into a bird. I pick up the other end of the string, which is a good few metres long, and start swinging it around me in a circle, with the boy, who is turning more and more into a bird, flying at the other end. I swing it high, so that he almost touches the green sun-dappled leaves and branches of nearby trees; I swing it low so that it almost skims the surface of a nearby pond or lake. Round and round through the air, not too slow, not too fast, keeping it circling. Perhaps I hope that the circling was kickstart his own circulation again, make his heart beat again, or that the swishing around will force air into his lungs and make him breathe again. I think of the words 'swing it high, swing it low, swing it fast, swing it slow'.
When I stop and examine the black bird on the ground he is now truly dead, already stiffening a little. From its dead eyes come a few puffs of smoke, dark and acrid, but also like the last bit of life escaping from him. I’m very sad. A Nepalese family (father, mother and two children) comes and tries to console me. I wake up with a deep sense of loss and failure.
During the discussion the dream-sharer related the dream to long-standing themes and recent events in his life.
The painting is composed in a circle, with the boy who becomes a bird, being whirled around high and low. During the painting process Julia found and highlighted the following words of Freud on the pages:
dead I can’t stand the sight of it
because he is not alive
Non vixit [Latin: he did not live] and his eyes turn
vixit non vivit [Latin: he lived, he does not live]
His eyes become strange and weirdly unmistakeable the terrible gaze
Dr Julia Lockheart