As the name suggests, ‘The Telepathy Project’ has been grounded in telepathy since our formation, yet a new force is increasingly prevalent in our work – dreams! We have been working with them for several years now, designing and conducting experiments to affect each other’s dreams, making paintings of our dreams and most recently performing our own dreams in a musical for a festival in India. When we got the chance to develop a new work for Melbourne Now we were keen to continue exploring this theme but to open up the project by exploring the dreams of others.
The ‘others’ whose dreams we chose to explore were sleeping figures in paintings from the NGV Collection. There are a lot of people lying around in paintings here; their bodies laid out passively for us to look at, but what are these figures dreaming of? Drawing on ideas derived from Democritus, an ancient Greek philosopher who hypothesised that images emanated from material objects and could enter the pores of a sleeping person and directly influence their dreams, we chose seven works featuring sleeping figures and went away on a seven night dream residency. Each night we would place a reproduction of one of the works under our pillow and dream on it in an attempt to divine what it was the figure was dreaming. These dreams became the scripts for a performance we directed in the Gallery where the sleeping figures would come alive and gather together in front of their paintings for a dream meeting. We thought about this as a sort of AA meeting for dreamers, where they each get up in turn and recount their dreams to each other in a supportive environment.
Returning to Melbourne we set about casting each sleeping figure. To do this we looked to our circle of friends and family, the bulk of whom are artists or musicians, and found some uncanny matches! We wanted to dress our cast in costumes appropriate to their matching paintings. The labyrinth-like costume shop Rose Chong Costumiers was an obvious choice to make this a reality. Working from the paintings with Rose Chong’s staff we were able to find the perfect outfit for each of the painted characters right down to individually styled wigs. Our approach is usually DIY and it has been a new and exciting experience to work with professionals across all aspects of the project, from the staff at the NGV, the team at Rose Chong, our makeup artists and film crew. With that said our awesome cast of non actors in combination with the dreams still feels very true to our established way of working. The final element will come during White Nights 2014 when we will set about recounting the general public’s dreams (hopefully sent in to us on the special postcards available as part of our show) in an epic 12 hour dream recital.
For more information on the Telepathy Project visit ngv.vic.gov.au/Melbournenow