Conditioned by Dreams

Conditioned by Dreams – A Film Workshop

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A Film Workshop
Filmmakers Per Huttner, Van Che and Fabien Guillermont will create an interdisciplinary film workshop at Teatermaskinen in Riddarhyttan in 2022 that focuses on dreams. The workshop will lead to the production of a documentary film. During the workshop seven people will live and make short film sequences based on the dreams that they dream during the workshop.

In the group, we are curious to see how working practically with filming their dreams influence their nightly lives. What kind of feedback loops between sleeping and waking lives become visible? We are particularly interested in how our Swedish cultural identity “leaks” out in dreams and in working with them. In order to make the working group’s Swedish cultural traits visible, we need outside eyes from other cultures.

Together we use the film medium and dreams to make invisible values visible – values that are so fundamental to us that we are unable to see them.

Each of the seven days of the workshop repeats the same pattern and process:

⁃The group members share breakfast together. They present and discuss their dreams of the night.
⁃ They agree on one of the dreams to film during the day. ⁃ They write a script, organise props and costume and other practical details they need to film the selected sequence.
⁃ They shoot the film in the theatre (which will provide them with lights, projections and other tools that enable them to visualise their dreams. But it will also put into play film’s historical relationship to theatre.)
⁃The sequence is edited quickly (while the group takes a break).
⁃ The group has dinner together discussing the day’s activities.
⁃ They watch what they have filmed during the day in the theatre.
⁃They go to bed.

A Documentary Film
The processes at the workshop will form the foundation for the documentary film. The film mixes two kinds of images: The first kind are fictional and are created by the participants of the workshop. The second kind depict the process of creating this fiction.

So, which is the narrative that unfolds in the documentary? Some days we wake up and there is a bad feeling in our bodies. This bad feeling usually leads to unfortunate actions. We might spill our morning coffee, argue with a family member and miss the bus to work. It is as if nothing that we do that day goes right. Other days we wake up happy. And then the whole world smiles towards us. No matter what we do, everything seems to go right. The way we wake up somehow seems to define our day.

The story told in the film revolves around what happens at night and that makes us wake up in a specific mood. Collectively we investigate when and how these changes take place while we sleep. Is it only when you sleep badly that or when you feel worried or haunted during the night that you wake up equally badly? (vaknar på fel sida.) And the opposite, what is it that makes you wake up with a smile? Does it depend on your dreams or some other internal processes? Do the dreams support our well-being? Can they influence the rest of our day? If dreams reflect, or are influenced by our daily activities, is it possible to influence them in such a so we are more likely to wake up with a smile?

About the documentary parts
The process is the most important part of this experiment. In the film we will follow the group as they work with turning their dreams into moving images. The aim is to point and identify where and how the daily activity becomes integrated into the nocturnal lives of the participants. Every morning, the group will gather to talk about their dreams from the previous night. They will use one dream to create the movie sequence of the day. But they need to use language, to discuss the dreams and how they can be turned into moving images. They will share their nocturnal images through words. This is the first translation or transformation that will turn a dream into a film sequence. The dreamer needs to use language to describe an image or a situation that he/she experienced in a fraction of a second while asleep.

But imagine that someone talks about a ship. This will evoke an image in every listener’s mind. Still it is certain that everyone gets a different mental image. So, even if the dreamer is able to tell and describe his dream in every detail, everybody in the room will visually imagine it differently. Language is, in other words, the first step of conditioning.  After that, the group will discuss how to transform the dream in order to be able to film it. This is a second conditioning step. Here the material constraints (of film, stage and propos), individual expectations and inner visualisations of each individual in the group will influence the process. Since this process happens in a group, the relationship between people in the group, their individual habits etc. will influence the final film. This means that, from both the process and filmed material, we will discover more about every participant, and how he/she will be characterised in the movie. We will learn about their backgrounds, ambitions and motivation.    By forming a group of people who are deeply interested and committed to their nocturnal life we will ensure that the process will become interesting not only for those who participate, but also for those who watch the film. The project takes the form of a social experiment. The film will therefore question our culture, habits, dreams and how we are conditioned in our everyday. How are we influenced by others in our choices?

*About the experimentation, the fictions created by the participants* In the project we use film and dreams to make visible the Dark matter of the mind in contemporary Swedish culture. What is this Dark matter of the mind? Linguist Daniel Everett gives the follow definition of the term:

“Dark matter of the mind is any knowledge[…] that is unspoken in normal circumstances, usually unarticulated even to ourselves. It may be, but is not necessarily, ineffable. It emerges from acting, ‘languaging,’ and ‘culturing’ as we learn conventions and knowledge organization, and adopt value properties and orderings [of our own culture]. It is shared and it is personal. It comes via emicization* , apperceptions, and memory, and thereby produces our sense of ‘self.’”**

The project develops a better understanding of how external influences condition us to think and act in certain ways. Conditioning has both positive and negative aspects. Conditioning supports us in the process of becoming who we want to be. (Like certain teachers influence and shape our lives.) Conditioning can also be a way for an outside agent (e.g. social, political or economic interests) to influence people to act in certain ways. (Like propaganda influences our lives).

As we have said, the main focus of the project is on dreams. However we have little interest to interpret the dreamers’ nightly lives. Instead, we are interested in how the act of talking about dreams and practically and physically working and reworking dreams through the making of a film sequence influence the nocturnal life of the participants. We are more interested in what elements can be identified and determined by the previous day’s activities. We will be careful, and try to spot certain markers, which could help us deepen the experience.

The project is aesthetic in nature and therefore the team is especially interested in how artistic expressions (film, music and theatre) condition and influence human actions. We will try to see if talking, writing, filming and editing movies, alter the course of the participants’ dreams. The result will be directly understandable while watching the final documentary. If an element from the previous sequence appears in the next one, it means it has been directly taken in by the dreamer’s unconscious, and then expressed during the following night.  Secondly, by directing and editing the sequences together, we are looking for connections. We are interested in understanding the potential parallels between films and dreams. It has often been noted that there are many similarities between the film cut and the logic of dreams. In both dreams and the film cut, the dreamer or narrator can easily move from one setting to another with great ease. By turning one’s gaze, walking through a door or a similar “gate”, the person can move from a well-known domestic setting into a desert, deep forest or a maritime scene. These changes or cuts are both invisible, we do not notice them during the dream or the film. We will use the film media to recreate this shape, highlight and question this moments and their logic.

Berit Engman,
Toan Van Che.
Fabien Guillermont
William Becker.
Jonas Engman,
Frederique Roy
Josefine Arnell
Leila Anna Christina Salvesen

The project is supported by The Swedish Arts Council, The Swedish Arts Grants Committee and Region Västmanland.



* Values that are shared (unknowingly) by a group are called “emic” while those who do not know the rules are “etic.” The etic are “outside.” If I find myself at a coffee break at an office where everyone speaks English I am emic in terms of general language, but when they start to talk in detail about data-programming, or the latest TV-shows, that I have no knowledge of, I am etic.Emicization would be to teach me about data programming or the TV-culture so that I have similar knowledge as the other members of the group.

** Everett, Daniel (2017) Dark Matter of the Mind: The Culturally Articulated Unconscious p. 1, The University of Chicago Press