- The Dream of Reason
The Dream of Reason was presented as an exhibition at London's temporarycontemporary, 8 June-2 July 2006. This artist-run converted distillery was the location for the display of projects by artists Anthony Discenza, Tom Dale, Lauren Kirkman, Frederick Loomis, Elysa Lozano, Inês Rebelo, Alexander Ugay and Roman Maskalev. Video-based works, site-specific installations, drawing projects, text-based works, sculpture and film were presented to the public with an accompanying publication.
The exhibition's title sets the tone of the premise for this project and works as an umbrella for the gathering of the different artists, who were selected based on their ongoing practices and the questions addressed in their specific contributions.
"The dream of reason" was chosen as a reference to the 43rd plate in Goya's series of etchings Caprichos (1797-1798), in which the words "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos" (the sleep of reason produces monsters) appear next to a human figure surrounded by demoniacal animals. The English translation of the Spanish text is ambiguous, as sueño can mean both sleep and dream. If one is looking at the picture, one cannot avoid wondering whether the man in the etching desires to awaken reason, or if his dream of reason has actually created the monsters. The exhibition, through the artists' works and publication, explores a range of possibilities between the two extreme interpretations of this ambiguity.
On one hand, dreams are built into the production of technology and science: A yearning for something greater, or the motivation to create something as yet unknown, drives the production. Many times a creative leap beyond the rules is necessary to progress to the next step inside the walls of a laboratory.
From another point of view, the scientist's processes and mechanics also become fantasies in the public imagination, as in science fiction. When one looks at a more or less popular image of a near future (utopic or dystopic), it seems there is a door open to immense imaginative possibilities. Technology opens that door, through which we see a hyperbolic distortion of the present. What we see in the present, then, is the belief in technology to usher in the future.
The Dream of Reason was set up at temporarycontemporary as an experimental laboratory, which uses as its platform the spheres of science, technology and rigorous processes, embedded with fantasy and dreams. The selected artworks examine these spheres in their analogous roles as tools, but the discrete moments of clarity in individual works spark against each other, distorting a single method of understanding and disagreeing on the end result. Or, in other words, the adopted tactic in the exhibit's curation, instead of setting up a rhetorical consequence of a sequence of arguments, presents different views on the proposed ambiguity through the artists' works.
The choices for this exhibition and the adopted tactics emerged naturally from a series of conversations, impelled by our practices as artists and curators, which were also published in the catalogue of the exhibition. The following is an edited version of this conversation:
Do you remember when we were talking about the show . . . back in the beginning, before anything happened, when we were sitting at our computers just talking about ideas?
I just remember e-mails, in the summer, when I was in Lisbon and you were in San Francisco. I remember one specific e-mail I sent to you. It was full of everything. [End Page 7]
Yes, I remember that e-mail. There was something about Borges, about the map.
Yes, the Borges text about representation . It talks about a group of cartographers who were charting every part of an empire, until the space was mapped at a 1:1 scale. So, the last map matched the size of the objects it was mapping. Lately I have been relating this to another map in Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark . But this one is a blank page in the book. The map is empty and there are no traces of land or anything. It...