Dreaming is one of the least explained wonders in our world experienced by every individual. Dreams can be insights into our consciousness, free-wheeling experiences that take us on journeys that weave in and out of time and space. In sleep we are able to experience sensual messages that enable us to explore our mind and soul. What is this curious relationship between our consciousness, mind, body and brain? Exploring these questions opens us to a world of fascination, beauty and fear that extends us beyond our physical reality.
What drives these experiences, and are they triggered by a mixture of automotive responses, memory, emotions, experience and environment? How can we as artists, scientists and individuals learn to understand our dreams and their relationship to our emotive states?
These are some of the questions that have intrigued one of Adelaide's most successful new media artists, Lynne Sanderson, in the research and development of her most recent work, Lucid Touch. Exhibited as part of the SALA (South Australian Living Artists) Festival in Adelaide at the Experimental Art Foundation, this interactive work was developed over three years in collaboration with Dr Cameron van den Heuvel at the Centre of Sleep Research, University of South Australia.
Lucid Touch is a bioreactive sculpture that uses the body's electrical signals through our sense of touch to control a flow of visual streams of a dream experience in an affective feedback loop. 'The participant controls the mood of a simulated dream and the digital dreamer controls the participant's emotional state. There is an electrical connection, a primal biological feedback'.
To create the extensive visual imagery of this piece, Sanderson has watched, measured and interacted with the brainwave patterns of scores of 'dreamers' in their active state. She also collected dreams online, asking specific questions about emotional state, colour, and sound within the dream experience. 'I have been exploring visual perception in dreams. I am fascinated by the space of the dream-world and the secrets the subconscious mind can reveal. Dreams are highly emotive visual experiences often leaving the dreamer with the sense that the dream was real and actually happened. During REM sleep, the dreamer often experiences a rapid shift of perception, place and being. It is in this subconscious state that any scenario becomes believable to the dreamer. Anything can happen, and we take it for a given. A person's perception in the state of dreaming is highly emotive due to a particular chemical balance in the brain.'
Lucid Touch also represents a long-term collaboration with sound artist, technician and partner, Peter Sansom. The music accompanying the imagery has been created from the emotional state and sounds described by the dreamers themselves. In this way, sound and image intertwine to deliver a captivating experience. Sanderson avoids using dialogue to maximise this emotional impact and to transcend cultural boundaries.
Research for Lucid Touch was funded by the Australia Council New Media Arts Board and the production was funded by an Arts SA New Work Grant. Sanderson's work has rarely been exhibited in her hometown, even though she is regularly represented in New Media exhibitions nationally and internationally. Sanderson is truly an experimental and accomplished artist. Her work places her both in the perceived worlds of science and art, and most importantly in the spaces between.