Dreaming the End of Dreaming

Alina Popa and Florin Flueras, two Romanian artists and former art, science & business fellows at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2014, returned to Stuttgart for their current project »Dreaming the End of Dreaming«. In a workshop at the Akademie, they explored what it means to treat dreaming as a real praxis, together with other Romanian artists and researchers from France and the United States. In the following, Florin Flueras will discuss the relationship between the black box of performance, the real and the oneiric space.

Usually dreaming is something that happens to us, not so much something that we perform. According to Jennifer Windt and Thomas Metzinger, we live our lives and the majority of dreams as »naive realists«, having the «impression of being in direct contact with external reality» and being unable to recognize »the simulational character of consciousness«. The dreaming operations are hidden, we experience just their results. A question for further consideration and experimentation is what happens if dreaming becomes explicit or if the implicit dreaming is speculatively doubled with a consciously performed one? What happens if an excess of dreaming is applied to a reality, if we overdream the world in which we are caught?

Maybe there is an optimum degree of dreaming for a reality to remain a reality, for a world to be natural. Probably if some limits of dreaming are surpassed, the natural solidity and coherence of the respective reality is shaken. Windt and Metzinger noticed that somehow an ability to exercise supernatural powers is linked with »the availability of the dreamlike nature of one’s ongoing state of consciousness on the level of behavior.« An intervention at the level of dream creation seems to be a necessary perturbation in the complete coincidence with one’s own nature, the step that must be made not to be totally inscribed in nature like an animal. Or from another perspective a way for nature to accelerate itself. At least this seems to be the vision in this Buddhist prayer: »Do not sleep like an animal. Do the practice which mixes sleep and reality.«

A possible way to follow the prayer is to constantly consider the eventuality of being asleep, dreaming what is happening. The »reality checks« of lucid dreamers can be amplified to a habit of radical doubt – from time to time to doubt that you are awake and that you are perceiving a reality. One of the consequences of amplifying this kind of doubts could be the sensation that everything is a dream. This is usually seen as a degradation because dreams are considered weaker forms of reality. But this degradation has its advantages – when the world is a dream, it becomes available to dreaming practices. Another consequence of the fact that you are dreaming is that you can wake up. And when you wake up you wake up in a superior reality. A hierarchical relation between realities is created through a retroactive degradation of experience – after you wake up you can acknowledge that your previous experience was “just a dream”.

A complication of this dynamic is that dream from which you continuously wake up in another dream, till you end up in reality – a reality that could be seen as the most stable available dream at that moment. But nothing guarantees that you will not wake up again, even from the most solid »reality«. In one of these types of dreams I was scared because I didn’t know where to come back, I felt that I could choose from more realities and I didn’t know where to wake up. I woke up in the wrong places and I was struggling to return, anxious about the idea that maybe there is no way back. It is a strange homelessness to feel that you are everywhere in dreams, nowhere in reality. But an alienation is a necessary consequence of a transversal navigation between realities or worlds.

In another one of my dreams I woke up in the same reality as that of the dream. In a paradoxical way, the awakening, what Windt and Metzinger call the »shift into another global state of reality-modeling«, was felt as just a different way of being in the same world. The awakening, instead of being a switch between realities, was just a subtle change in quality. The minimal aspect of an awakening seems to be a sensation of an increased lucidity more than a switch of realities. For Windt and Metzinger, we are more aware in a lucid dream than in waking life because the system »is able to grasp the simulational character of its overall state«. The awareness increases even more in the lucid false awakening »because it combines both concurrent and retrospective insight into the dream state«. If we radicalize this perspective, we can say that the maximum awareness is a series of lucid awakenings, a falling from a dream to another dream.

On the other hand, this can only accelerate and make continuous a retro-degradation of existence. For Bergson »a dream is this: I perceive objects and there is nothing there. I see men; I seem to speak to them and I hear what they answer; there is no one there and I have not spoken. It is all as if real things and real persons were there, then on waking all has disappeared, both persons and things. How does this happen?« Retrospectively everything is just a dream, just nothing, it doesn’t exist. To fall from a dream to another dream is an endless catastrophe, an infinite falling into a black hole. You kill realities one by one looking for an exit, haunted by an overwhelming feeling that you have to escape, but there is nowhere to go, just a serial exiting, an empty awakening. Seen from the other side, a repeated waking up is a continual falling asleep, because any waking up means a falling asleep somewhere else.

Sometimes a nightmare, a dream of the end, an apocalypse can give a sensation of waking up, in another dream. This is particularly relevant now when many signs indicate that we may be in a process of extinction, when our personal and collective realities are ending. It is important to imaginatively and practically speculate about what happens when the worlds are ending. Maybe, following a Vedånta twist – »the world is included within the state and not in the world the states occur« – to make the serial births and killings of worlds as easy as waking up and falling asleep, a meta-state is needed. A meta-dream in which you constantly wake up only to realize that you are actually in another dream. A meta-dream of endings, of falling from a dream into another dream, dreaming the end of dreaming.