Life is But a “Dream”—Or Is It?

Artwork: MAN RAY (Emmanuel Radnitzky, dit), A l’heure de l’observatoire, 1970 Lithographie sur papier, 68 x 104 cm Collection Clo et Marcel Fleiss, Paris © MAN RAY Trust / Adagp, Paris 2016.

We may spend a third of our life asleep, in a state of unconsciousness where another layer of reality reveals itself. It is here in this state that we discover secrets of life, secrets told in a majestic code that does not quite translate. We meet people we know and people we have never met; we encounter the dead and the unborn yet. We are taken to places we have never been and given skills we do not otherwise possess. We experiences tremendous highs and devastating lows, laying bare a panoply of emotions we often hide from our selves. We are given messages delivered with an urgency that seems to disappear when we awake.

Also: Artist Pedro Paricio’s “Dreams” Take Us to the Deepest Reaches of Imagination

Through out history and around the world, cultures have sought to unearth the secret language of dreams, to unmask their secrets, decode their messages, and learn their warnings. In the nineteenth century, artists began to represent dreams as a revelation of another universe that transfigured objective reality. They used art to explore the frontiers of this world, expanding the ways in which art could be used to transform our understanding of the world.

Salvador DALI Composition (Portrait of Luli Kollsman) 1946 huile sur toile, 77 x 92 cm Collection particulière en dépôt à la Fondation Juan March, Palma, Espagne © Courtesy Funcacion Juan March, Madrid © Joan-Ramon Bonet/David Bonet © Adagp, Paris 2016

Salvador DALI, Composition (Portrait of Luli Kollsman), 1946 huile sur toile, 77 x 92, Collection particulière en dépôt à la Fondation Juan March, Palma, Espagne, © Courtesy Funcacion Juan March, Madrid © Joan-Ramon Bonet/David Bonet © Adagp, Paris 2016

As psychoanalysis came into vogue, Sigmund Freud took it upon himself to offer his perspective with The Interpretation of Dreams (1899). He saw dreams as, “the royal road to the unconscious activities of the mind,” and endeavored upon himself to solve the puzzle within his paradigm for understanding the human mind. His writings moved dreams out of the bedroom and onto the analyst’s couch, where there could be explored in a clinical setting demonstration of pseudo-scientific analysis.

In doing so, Freud popularized the dream as a legitimate source of study in the Western world. Naturally, artists were quick to connect with these ideas, as their work often acts as a mediator between unconscious and conscious realms. In celebration of this era in Western art, Musée Cantini, Marseille, presents Dream, on view now through January 22, 2017. Comprised of seven sections, Dream captures the different moments that occur throughout the course of the night, including Sleep, Nocturnes, Dreams, Fantasies, Nightmares, Hallucinations, and Awakening. Each of the sections contains works that span the late nineteenth century and continue to the present time.

Louise BOURGEOIS, Spider II, 1995, bronze, pièce murale, 184,2 x 184,2 x 57,2 cm Collection The Easton Foundation, Photo: Christopher Burke, © The Easton Foundation/ Licensed by ADAGP, Paris 2016

Louise BOURGEOIS, Spider II, 1995, bronze, pièce murale, 184,2 x 184,2 x 57,2 cm

Collection The Easton Foundation, Photo: Christopher Burke, © The Easton Foundation/ Licensed by ADAGP, Paris 2016

Dream includes works by some of the greatest artists of the day, including Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dali, Odilon Redon, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Victor Vasarely, and John Cage, among many others, providing a multi-layered experience of the dreamscape and its many worlds. Through their eyes we travel through the labyrinths of the soul, discovering the strange, the sensual, and the sublime experience of the unconscious realm.

The dreamscape is both alluring and terrifying, yet it is never predictable. Its enigmatic storytelling and symbolism is a marvel to behold. It is a reminder that as much as we aspire to rational thought, behind our conscious mind lurks something we cannot name.

Odilon REDON Orphée vers 1910 huile sur carton, 57 x 55 cm Montpellier Mediterranée Métropole, Musée Fabre © Musée Fabre de Montpellier Méditerranée Métro- pole - photographie Frédéric Jaulmes

Odilon REDON, Orphée, vers 1910, huile sur carton, 57 x 55 cm, Montpellier Mediterranée Métropole, Musée Fabre, © Musée Fabre de Montpellier Méditerranée Métro- pole – photographie Frédéric Jaulmes


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.