Dreamscapes: To Sum it all up... - Karolina Skorek
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Dreamscapes: To Sum it all up…

I started this strong…with an idea, and passion! I was ready after all that happened in December…and January… I started with an idea, filmed poster presentation, big scale painting… and a dream to do etchings… I bought an etching press so I can do it whenever I feel the spark of inspiration… 

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And then in mid March my grandfather got ill… we didn’t know what was wrong, but there was something in the air…and all my ideas started to feel less and less. I started to doubt and second guess every idea I had about this project. Nothing made sense anymore, but I still kept going. The etchings were keeping me in check. From drawing and then redrawing and getting all the symbols inside the small design, then getting it onto a varnished aluminium plate…and the almost meditative state of scratching away the varnish and getting all the details in with no room for error… It was all I needed. Due to the nature of this technique and that it wasn’t the only thing I was doing I managed to do four finished cards…and a few more designs that I will still finish later, so this creates almost a deck of Dream Cards inspired by occult and tarot. The esoteric traditions are very wide and deep, and roots run deep, not just in Western Cultures. The word comes from Greek and was used to describe everything that is hidden and not available for everyone, or to put it in a different word – everything that was available to only a small circle of people. Dream practice is a part of what we would call esoteric and occult.  And those etchings are exploring just that… 

The films I created this semester are a short – non linear form exploring dreams, visions and their importance for me as an artist and a woman born in Poland and raised in the environment that nurtured the sacred relationship between humans and nature, as well as honouring our ancestors,our past and our culture. 

I started with a single idea and a question… What other ways can I portray dreams? How can I make it even more immersive? How can I make it into something that will transport the viewer into the dreamstate? 

I started to explore the idea of moving images after coming across fashion-art films made for Gucci. I became fascinated by their use of this medium, by the soft painterly sometimes surreal feel to the visuals I was seeing. 

I decided to experiment, so I invited a few of my dancer friends… set up a studio in my living room, similar to the ones I set up for photography, yet the lighting set up was different, as I had to use constant light- and think how to block out all the background that was my room. It worked – I created a stage with the backdrops I  hand painted before and blocked sides with a black material. Just before we started shooting I briefed the dancers what I want to achieve and the overall feel of the video… I wasn’t sure what it was going to be finally, but I had an idea that was growing so I let them feel it too. 

I have to admit- after I finished recording – I fell in love with this process. It was new, and different to what I was doing before. 

The first versions of what later became the Dreamscapes were longer and less… “chaotic” I was mesmerised by the poetry in the dance moves…I wanted to use the “commercial” music as a background/storytelling device, but then I realised it will be more problematic, and abounded the idea. I wanted this to be mine, from start to finish- to tell my story. 

I even contacted a few musicians to see if they would like to collaborate on this and create a shamanic drum improvisation to this… but as most of them when they saw the first drafts said that it is way too professional to record music on their phones and we would need a recording studio  and sound technician. 

I did not want that… 

So I left the project for a week or two.

I needed a clean start. 

I started fresh. 

The sequences became shorter and more surreal. I decided to include the nude female figure covered only in some red twine… I had many reasons for including it. Two most important ones being – the “First Chapter” as I called it, explored sacred rituals, and visions of being liberated, being honest and true with yourself…and I think there is nothing more honest, liberating and beautiful than a naked body. We are all different, yet the same in a way and I wanted to show that. It is also my way of embracing and accepting my femininity and becoming the woman I am now. 

Through the first chapter you can notice three females that are the main focus. I wanted them to resemble the Moirai – or more commonly known in English as the Faiths- the incarnations of Destiny, waving the red twine of human faith. The role of the Moirai was to ensure that every being, mortal and divine, lived out their destiny as it was assigned to them by the laws of the universe. For mortals, this destiny spanned their entire lives, and was represented as a thread spun from a spindle. 

In the second chapter (and to be honest I only numbered them so that it is easier for me to talk about it all) I decided to explore the surreal, the strange and the nonlinear quality that the dreams have. I was inspired by the polish surreal filmmakers from the past – like Wojciech Has.  I decided to be more brave and experimental with the form of this chapter. With the jumps between the oniric, smokey shaman visions, the realistic crisp footage from the places I visited and surreal still life composition I decided to explore more of the symbolism of water, that so often is so important in the slavic dream “language”. It is also quite a personal journey for me, as I always had a very symbolic relationship with water. Not only this is the space where I find the most comfort and calm, but I always felt that the veil between the worlds is the thinnest there.  

The third chapter is a mixture of both approaches, and  paying homage to Polish poet Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński and his poem “Dream”. For years dreams were inspiring artists in Poland, and you can hear sentences from this poem echoing in the background… This chapter was created when one of the darkest moments this year started to happen… and for a while the death of my grandfather marked the end of this part of the project… but then sometime in August between processing my grief, and then refuelling the grief when I had to say goodbye to my little dog as she was dying from cancer a need to introduce the project…to create a Prelude to the Dreamscapes…an opening to this strange world of mine… at the beginning I decided that it will be narrated by a one male, deep, voice and a figure that sits on a stage like set covered in smoke and purple light.  I started to write down the ideas… and his monologue… but when I started editing it I quickly realised that it is not otherworldly enough. I didnt need another story narrated by a male voice… I needed to be more inclusive there and explore more options… So I asked my friend to record the same monologue and I overlapped those…Now I had a southern american accent, that for me sounds like coming home.. And then a female voice, my best friend who was with me through the best and the worst… Editing them through a voice changer, adding a vintage feel to it. This was it.. With a little bit of the last idea left in there…but now as an ominous floating head … a little smiley nod of my head to the old 80`s and 90`s music video clips. … 

And there it was… For this semester the Dreamscapes shorts were done… They are not finished, I do intend to create much more of those in the future…but for now they are done. I even sent them off for a few film festivals and competitions… and they got picked up for screening. Dreamscapes were shown at Cinema in the City by FACT and during a “Passion” group exhibition in New York… I think it was the boost I needed… 

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Sometime in June I got invited to beta test Midjourney – an AI image generating algorithm, similar to Dall-e and Stable Diffusion that I am also testing… it is a program that when given a descriptive text prompt will generate an original art. 

There is a whole philosophical debate to be had about these images, and the collaboration between humans and AI. But I don’t think I have time to even start it right now, the only thing I have to say is that it is a fascinating space to watch. I am mesmerised by the possibilities and the dream-like feeling of a chaotic and not really controllable force. I also started to test how I could use it in my art… So far I thought it could be a very interesting way of creating assets to my digital art.

I have created some digital art as well in my traditional way… it was to start me off again, as at the end of June my grandfather lost his fight to cancer I felt… stuck, stuck in between and I felt I couldn’t move. So I just started to create the familiar. It is part of my process, everytime I feel lost, I come back to my camera and computer…and I create. This time I found myself coming back to the more dark surreal and occult images. The Lux Mundi was created and the soul compass… I shot it back when I was filming the dreamscapes, and then I created the “finding oneself” , a female figure wrapped in a red cocoon of grief that starts to find herself in little drawers of memories… I was inspired by Salvadore Dali and Frida Khalo here… It’s interesting how my digital art influences the etchings and the other way around … the etching influences my digital art too. Soul Compass and Lux Mundi are part of my solo show called “lux et umbra” where me and the curator picked 12 works to create this story between light and shadows that has been coming through my works since I started creating. 

And it is how my research went. I use research to inform my art, and to create, then it sparks something else…and it pushes me to find out more about the subject. In a way it is a never ending cycle… but to be honest I like it like this, it keeps me going.

I have started doing 20-40 minutes long interviews with people who use dreams, or know more about dreams in my culture. I spoke with a professor of archeology, I spoke with a tarot reader…I spoke with a corporate worker who uses the practice of our ancestors in her work and daily life… and someone who would be called a village witch back in the middle ages.  Bringing the research back to the polish community showed me how interesting a socially or culturally engaged practice could be if I find something I am passionate about. There are so many aspects to this that I discovered. From violent medium seances where female mediums were often tied up, locked up often hypnotised and abused, to people practising the faith of our ancestors now. Esoteric practice that was prohibited in Poland since the baptism and overtaking Slavic lands by Christianity… this is not dead mythology, the old beliefs and practices are doing just fine, taught by our families, sometimes as sayings, sometimes as superstitions, but very well alive. 

So to sum it up… I feel this first half of 2022 was the most challenging time I had in my life… I keep thinking I haven’t done enough. Yes when I am talking about it now – I can see there is a lot of work and research that went into this, but I feel I could do more…but I do feel I found the path again, I guess it is now up to me to follow it through

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