'Is this a performance, an exhibition, a show, or a picnic?’ and ‘What is this about?’ were some of the initial questions from visitors to the exhibition ‘Migratory Dreams’, which, despite the cold, brought around 50 people from all over the world to Furtherfield Gallery in Finsbury Park on 2 March, 2013.
Curious visitors were greeted with sounds coming from loudspeakers placed on the exterior wall of the Gallery. Colombian food, such as exotic fruit juices, empanadas (pastries), envueltos de mazorca (cornbread rolled in corn leaves), arequipe and natilla (milk-based desserts), helped to emphasise the migratory nature of the event and evoked memories and relationships with both territory and body: reminders of a land that used to feed Colombians and latinoamerican migrants. The body recalls memories of warm corn and fried cassava.
Inside the gallery, eight dreams were displayed through mp3 players in a dimly lit atmosphere, inviting attendees to an intimate listening experience that could nonetheless be shared with others. The eight dreams were the result of the telematic performance that was created in real-time between four Colombians residing in London, and four Colombians residing in Bogotá: linked by diverse migratory experiences on the 2nd of August, 2012.
In the exhibition, the listeners had access to transcriptions of the dreams, which originated in Spanish and were translated into English. Translation is itself a migration of language, extending the links of the universal experience of geographical movement, and of the universe of dreams. Javier, one of the visitors, suggested that ‘ “Migratory Dreams” represents a mental universe of migrants that is not visible in the society that receives them’. Neither is it visible in the society that has been left; in the exhibition there was a chance to hear thoughts and feelings that come from this ‘universe’.
Visitors also were invited to exchange dreams through a dream box. The box provoked interaction between unacquainted people and provided the opportunity to further share the common universes of migration and dreams.
During the event, a bilingual talk was presented to explain the creative and experiential process lived by the performers, and to help realise possible links or ties that are created in a collective dream. The talk described how the performance followed preparatory workshops drawn from Deep Listening philosophy and practices. Visitors were curious about concepts such as ‘dream incubation’, which was beautifully explained by the youngest of the crowd (a 6-year-old boy), who assertively imagined this process as resembling the one that happens between ‘a chicken and the eggs’. ‘Yes, it’s something like that, and with the warmth that is required’, I replied.
Equally, processes of listening mediated by technologies, made him wonder if people are ‘hearing the same sounds’ in each city. The answer this time is not easy. Listening is subjective, and in fact the differences in technical output in each city created distinct experiences. The recorded streaming signal is the common representation for audiences to listen ‘to the same sounds’. Networks and migrations were concepts that provoked other interesting questions from the audience that in turn allowed for expansion: functional, technical, poetic and philosophical references were part of the conversation.
Andrea, another visitor, said to me that this exhibition touched deeply ‘a fibre’ and that this unusual experience will remain with her. In this sense, the event was achieving its purpose: creating resonances and awareness of invisible links we migrants and dreamers share. And it was not only Colombians who joined this party. People from many different geographical locations came to eat, drink, listen, share and to connect, not necessarily driven to understand the slippery nature of dreams, and the transitory essence of migrations, but just to be there. Aha, so was it a party?
Thanks to Futherfield Gallery for the invitation to use their ‘Clear Spots’ experimental space.