The Netherlands, 36th conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, 25th June 2019
We show here the finished artwork for a dream told at this conference, of the dreamer communicating with a dolphin, but the dolphin not understanding a wheat field, the harvest and seasons. Our finished artworks all have this format, with mounting board of appropriate colour. The original painting, and text of the dream, are at the bottom of this post, below the finished artwork.
The society of the dolphins, below water, want to ameliorate the communication between dolphins and humans. They have for many years been training below the sea to imitate human sounds and language, and have sent their best imitator and speaker to come to the land. They come to me because I am an engineer specialised in electronics and acoustics, and can translate their speech of a series of rapid acute sounds. I meet him. He has learnt to walk upright on his tail, but is unsteady. I say ‘namaste’. I know that dolphins see the sun when they stick their heads above water, and so I point to the sun as I say the word ‘sun’ in English, and ‘sol’ in Danish, the dolphin imitates me and says ‘sun’ with his thick lips. I then proceed with numbers. I put up one finger and the clever dolphin nods once, I put up two fingers and the dolphin nods twice. I know we understand each other. I am proud that I am the first human to speak to a dolphin, the first human being to speak to another species. The dolphin then points to a harvested wheat field and asks what it is. I try to explain about plants, and about the wheat field growing, and then the harvest and withering away and change of seasons. But he can’t understand as these do not occur under the water. Nevertheless, I am content that we have communicated about numbers and a natural element, the sun.
I am standing in a corridor, with my back to one wall, the wall opposite isn’t there. I am wearing a waterproof blue kagool, which I know I don’t own. My head is bowed, I have longer hair than now. There is a locked black security gate behind me, I know it is the entrance to my own flat, but in the dream it is like a portcullis of a medieval castle. I am distressed, what have I done? I have left my flat by choice, I know I haven’t been evicted, but I can’t go back and can’t change my mind. I am frightened. There are no people in the corridor but I hear two voices, both women. One says “you’ll have the flat for life, you’ll die there, if you want to.” The other is performing as a fortune teller, reading palms; when it is my turn she is agitated, saying “no, I don’t want to say.” I have feelings of dread. I am then sitting on a beach in just swimming trunks. My torso is nut brown, but my legs are pasty white. I have hair to my waist, and a beard and moustache. There is nobody else there. I swim out to sea, all is gentle but when I look round I can’t see the shore. As it is a cove I know that if I swim in one direction I will likely meet land, and so I choose a direction and do then get to land, but maybe a mile from my clothes, which are just blue jeans. When I find these I pick them up but don’t put them on, and then wander back to my tent.
I am flying over terrain, rivers and roads, and come down in Islamabad. I am outside a hospital and can see huge black crows in the dry grass of the hospital grounds. The hospital has smooth cement walls outside and inside. I am then in a hospital room, which is dark and cool. It has a metal framed bed but nothing else, no decor or equipment. I am watching a woman in the room. She has a long shawl covering her faceless body, like a ghoul. She goes into the bathroom. Just another smaller room, and without a window to see the crows lurking. It has very little light. There is an old squat toilet, a stool for bathing, and a bucket for a bath. Somehow, I know it is my mother’s aunt. She doesn’t make it back to the hospital bed, she dies in the bathroom. I know the water she poured on her body was killing her. I don’t see any fear or pain. Just an ending.
I am in my grandmother’s white bedroom. There is a small, fluffy, brown-furred dog, two months old, with long ears. His mother is there, and his five or six siblings, which are growing, but the small dog is the size of my hand and doesn’t grow. I choose this dog because it looks weak. I feel mutual emotional attachment between me and the dog. I am worried about his health and so I put it into a small black cosmetics bag and carry him with me all the time. I am then with other people in a large white, empty, bright gaming room, where we are fighting colourful cartoon-style zombies, which are clown-like and not scary. One of the zombies is purple, there are two zombies but I am expecting more to come out. The weapons in the room look like children’s toys, and sticks. With a toy gun one person shoots a powder at a zombie, which dissolves. I don’t take any weapons, I just want to make sure that the dog is OK. I open the bag and feel that the dog’s body is cold. I think he has died and I am sad. But after a few seconds his body becomes warm and he starts to move and I am relieved.
Sleep and Memory conference, Paris Institute for Advanced Study, 6-7th June 2019. Dream of organising two operations for my brother
I am in a hospital in a city in Switzerland. I have arranged for my brother to have two operations, at separate hospitals. He has travelled to the city so as to have both operations in one day. The first is on his mouth and throat. I am then waiting at the second hospital. I am in a room with the doctors. My brother phones me and says that he cannot make the second operation. I realise that a person can’t be intubated twice in one day. I am annoyed with myself for organising so much for him to do.
Painting made as part of BBC World Service programme on dreaming, broadcast April 2019. Presenter's dream of brother dying due to being hit by a car
'I am at my parents’ large, reddish, Victorian house, our family home, which is at the edge of a village. It is a Spring afternoon, with a blue sky. My second youngest brother, aged about 17, is walking up the narrow lane by the house. It is a twisting, turning lane, which cars often whizz along. The lane has green trees and fields on both sides, and steep, brown, earth banks, 12 – 15 foot high, like a gully, so there is nowhere to escape. I have a sense that he has been hit by a car. I leave the house, run down the side steps, and run down the lane to find him. I see him, dead, covered in blood, with limbs at odd, irregular angles. Blood is on the tarmac. I hug him.'
The BBC film of the painting being made can be seen here.
Dream of being pulled out of my sleeping body, meeting my late mother who takes me through a door to an adventure.
Very happy today to have completed and handed over, to the dreamer and family, the artwork capturing the Rowing Boat, Canal Boat and Large Boat dream, which was shared with us at the 2nd Swansea Science Festival. We are very grateful to the couple who shared and discussed it with us! It was a lovely dream.
Dream of a crocodile under the water and a snake
Dream of a haunted house
Dream of redecorating a dilapidated dowdy house (and, below, the mounted artwork and dream text)
At the beach, warning mother and sister of a dangerous sea-serpent
Elongated car dream
Partner says jump into sea, then together on canal boat
Dream of walking in long offices with red Morse code on walls
For the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Sciences we held two events, this one was at the Glynn Vivian art gallery, Swansea. The dream was of a virtual reality research centre, the dreamer flew up in the VR above the research centre and above the shoreline and cliffs which were next to the centre. A male and a female researcher described the VR programme as aiming to cause elation and positive emotions.
As part of a three day celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein we held a DreamsID event at Taliesin Create, part of Swansea University, with invitations to discuss nightmares and dreams and have them painted.
Nightmare of teddy bear whose arms become tendrils that strangle the dreamer, dreamer runs out of house and sees silhouette of man inside the house.
We also had a very positive dream told to us: "Car, motorcycle and ballerina dream."
"I am in the back seat of a car, relaxed. Suddenly I am shocked to realise that no-one is driving and I have to take over steering by reaching over from the back. I can’t get to the pedals and I fear for myself and for others for what might happen, even though no-one else is around outside. But I don’t crash, I sense I manage the situation.
"I am next on a beautiful large black and chrome or gold motorcycle, like a Harley-Davidson or Triumph. I am wearing one-piece feminine black leathers, like cat woman. I am riding the bike fast, it is very large and I am astride it, leaning forward, no helmet. It feels fantastic, and not out of control. It is great, I feel a powerful woman.
"I am then outside, I am a ballerina, pirouetting, beautiful, in a classical and pale pink leotard, with pale pink tights and pink ballet shoes. I do a high floating twirl, very graceful, like a musical box ballerina. I am very pleased with myself."
Dream shared, discussed and painted in a session as part of the multidisciplinary Dream Science Symposium,
10th - 11th October 2018, at University of California Los Angeles.
It was night-time and I was in London. I was with my old high school friends, four, all girls, my closest friends, plus me. The city was really beautiful, really bright, in contrast to the blue, very dark sky. The bright lights were almost a little bit overwhelming. We were close to the Big Ben tower. We were talking about coffee, mainly the taste of it, which I don’t like as it is bitter.
Suddenly, it was like falling in a roller coaster, anti-gravity, where you feel your body lift up and feel strange. I looked around me and everyone started floating, their feet slowly coming off the ground. I then felt sort of lucid, where you can sort of control your body in your dream, and the first thing you want to do when you feel lucid is you want to fly around. I could control my movements. My friends could do the same. So everyone in the entire city, it was pretty crowded, started floating, slowly up, along with my friends. Some people were really scared and stopped, but I was thrilled with the fact that I could control everything now.
We were flying and spinning around Big Ben, like in the movie Peter Pan, the famous scene where they are flying around. It was like a picturesque version of that, swirling and doing loops with all my friends. I could look down at the whole world and city, the contrast of bright lights with the dark night sky. My vision was blurred black and yellow, with lots of noise. It was freezing cold, the wind was going really fast. I could feel how cold it was, but it was like an adrenaline rush. We kept going further out into the ocean, I could control everything.
I woke up but I didn’t want the dream to end, I liked the dream so much I tried to go back to sleep and continue it. Miraculously the dream continued and I was flying again for a long time. My friends were no longer with me. I thought I have had my fun, so I flew straight down and dove into the ocean. It was completely black, and then I woke up.
“I’m in a building that’s big, made with blocks of stone. It feels like it’s hundreds of years old, I’m not sure how many stories it is but it’s feels like it’s almost a square. It’s like a museum, kind of dark and in shadow. There are windows on the far wall. It’s just a really thick stone wall, kind of grey. It’s open in the interior, like the Guggenheim in New York, but with square corners instead of round. The landings are all on the outside and it’s open down the middle so you could potentially see all the way to the bottom. I can’t see to the bottom as it’s murky down there. I’m walking down the corridor along the outside edge of the top floor, heading toward the staircase, I’m going to turn right and start heading down. But on my left is this tapestry that I would have just walked by except that, as I’m walking by it, it moves, or it’s folded or there’s some way that it gets my attention. From first glance it’s sort of nondescript, it’s faded, it doesn’t really stand out. But then it gets my attention, and I turn and look at it. The tapestry is quite big, maybe 15 feet high, bigger than me and 6-8 feet wide. It’s really, really old. Like one of those carpets that was bright red when it was made but has now faded to a pale orangey colour. And when I look at it, I don’t really see any detail, I can’t really tell what’s on it. But I think I see a tree, and in the dream I think, the tree of life. It might be like an oak tree, that kind of shape, it’s deciduous, fully leafed. And I get the sense there’s a river. And I also get a sense that it’s one of those tapestries where there’s a story or a myth being depicted. It was very detailed and densely woven. There’s so much in it, it feels like all of life is represented in it. The tapestry feels richly filled with people and animals and all kinds of symbols, it’s crowded with stuff.
“There is a small group of people starting in the same place I did. They want to see this tapestry so I have to move along because there isn’t enough space for us all. You can’t stand back and get a good perspective because the railing is there, and the dropoff. They are big wooden railings. They’re oak, carved, thick, old, somewhat ornate. The top has this wide curved, carved surface, and there are spindles underneath. At the corner of the stairs is a feature, a curved piece of wood to mark the corner. The corners of the building are square, but the railing is curved. They are beautiful even though I don’t like them. I have an adverse reaction to this railing. I don’t like oak.
“So I stand and look at the tapestry for a little while, and then I have to move reluctantly out of the way to let these people see it. I realize I have to share. I go further down. When I moved away from it and looked at it from a different angle, there was a whole different scene – like those scarves from India that are different colors depending on the angle of light, but the tapestry was much more complex than that, a thousand times more intricate. It felt like if you shifted your angle even just a little bit, it shifted the picture. It felt like it could change anyway, with time as well. It felt very magical.”
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.
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, 15th July 2017.
We were invited to hold 5 DreamsID sessions and give a talk on the science and art of dreaming across the day.
The five drawn interpretations of dreams and the dream narratives are pictured below.
Log cabin and textiles dream
Where is My Home dream
"I am walking up a street in the evening. I walk past street lights running down the street and come to stop beside a red door. My daughter is beside me with her boyfriend and I realise this is her new home. She can enter the house through the door with her boyfriend and they step over the threshold. I stand outside the house and turn away thinking 'where is my home?' "
Dr Julia Lockheart