What is the Dream Realization Laboratory?

In short, it’s an art project by Benjamin Evans. My principal goal is to transform objective, empirical data obtained from sleeping people into new aesthetic forms.

I am also interested in exploring a branch of “science” from the perspective of an outsider. It is important, I think, to realize that I have no background in computer programming, electronics, signal processing, neuroscience, or sleep science. My background is in visual art and philosophy, but I’m interested in engaging with scientific processes for both critical, serious, and playful purposes. Part of the project is about engaging with the often alienating worlds of science and technology and the process of experimentation and discovery itself. 

Why are you so into dreams?

Arguably, the dream is the most perfect form of art that has ever existed. A dream creates, out of sheer imagination, a completely immersive world capable of moving us through the entire spectrum of human emotion in a way that makes our high-tech ‘virtual reality’ devices seem downright infantile. Paintings, novels, movies, operas – all our creative cultural endeavours can obviously provide lasting personal resonance, but none have the capacity to directly impact us the way dreams do. After all, we ourselves are the authors (or artists? or directors?) of our own dreams. Dreams are produced neither by powerful Hollywood entertainment corporations, nor by elite prize-winning artists. Instead, they are produced by everybody, every night, for free. Dreams reveal the overlooked creativity, playfulness, and inventiveness inherent in the biology of the human being itself, and the productions of the DRL help serve as a reminder of this.

How are the results produced?

The science page describes  the process in considerable detail, and the Blog documents my own process of discovery and experimentation. In my method developing technologies are used to poetically allow the sleeping brain to, as it were, speak for itself. Pulled from the brainwaves of anonymous dreamers, these abstract images, objects and sounds are literal translations of actual dreams, and their mysterious forms are created by allowing the sleeping brain itself  to determine shapes, colors, positions and tones. Here the art studio becomes an experimental laboratory bringing together genuine sleep science, art, music, aesthetics, and philosophy.

These things don’t look like dreams at all.

The products resulting from the above process obviously do not bear much resemblance to either the manifest or latent dream content (i.e. dreams about bunny rabbits do not produce images of bunny rabbits nor reveal what bunny rabbit dreams are about). Nor do they exactly provide diagrams helpful to a scientific analysis of dreams. And in any case, they utterly fail to convey the emotional and psychological richness of the lived dream experience.

However, not all failures are bad. In this case, I believe this to be a productive failure, an important and revealing failure that, for starters, helps expose the inevitable gulf between our private mental lives and the scientific and artistic practices that seek to document them. My goal is not to produce a high-tech “dream viewer,” nor engage in hubris of the Surrealist’s attempts to present dreams on canvas. For me, dreams are tokens of a subjectivity irreducible to either scientific explanation or narrative representation. The point is not to render the narratives of individual dreams visible nor quantify them in data, but rather to use both artistic and scientific perspectives to evoke the fundamentally mysterious process of dreaming itself. My hope is that the images, audioforms and objects I produce thereby serve two roles: On the one hand, they are artefacts of this productive failure, of the gulf between ourselves and our self-knowledge. On the other hand, they are aesthetically valuable objects in their own right, reminders of our own constant, if latent, creative energy.

About Benjamin Evans:
Benjamin Evans is an artist and writer currently based in the French Alps. He has zero formal training in data visualization, computer programming, MATLab, signal processing or sleep science in general. Originally from the Canadian province of Newfoundland, he has also spent seven years living in New York City where he directed the non-profit gallery NURTUREart and was active in the Brooklyn arts scene. He has exhibited previous bodies of work professionally in both Canadian and New York venues. While living in Paris, Evans opened the itinerant gallery project Projective City, which exhibited the work of emerging artists in Paris, New York and virtual spaces in between. He holds five degrees, including a PhD in philosophy and an MFA in mixed media, and has taught at several institutions, including the Alberta College of the Arts, The Parsons School of Design in New York and Parsons Paris. Having completed his PhD, he has recently returned to making art full time.