Susan Hiller

Dream Mapping 1974


Dream Mapping is related to several earlier 'group investigation' projects. Hiller's first video work, Pray/Prayer (1969) used the new medium of video to investigate and record modified behaviour with a selected group. In Draw Together (1972), Hiller conducted an exploration of the telepathic transmission of images by producing simultaneous drawings with artists in other countries. For Street Ceremonies (1973), the artist and more than 200 invited participants marked the geographical and social boundaries of a London neighbourhood by performing with mirrors at noon and candles at sunset on the autumn equinox. Super-8 film and audio documentation created by the participants survive, together with the artist's notes, numerous photographs and other documents of the event.

In 1974, in conjunction with the writer David Coxhead, Hiller published the book Dream: Visions of the Night. The previous year, while working on the book, she conducted a group investigation into the 'origin of images and ideas' called The Dream Seminar (1973). In this work, twelve participants met for twelve weeks to discuss their dreaming and their subconscious interaction or 'dream meetings', documenting their progress in notes and audiotapes. For Dream Mapping, Hiller invited 10 participants to develop a graphics system of recording their dreams.

Then, for three nights, they all slept outdoors in an area of the Hampshire countryside with an unusual occurrence of fairy rings, or circles formed by the marasmius mushroom, chosen because of the myth that if you sleep within one of these circles, you can enter fairy-land. Each participant was given a notebook with a map of the dream site on the cover. Every morning they recorded their dreams using the system of note-taking that they had developed earlier. They noted the similarities and differences among the dreams by the making of collective dream maps, in which they took all of the individual diagrams from each day and superimposed them to create a group notation.

For her solo exhibition at the ICA in London in 1986, Hiller evolved a form of presentation for this material, displaying the open notebooks in individual vitrines, and reproducing a considerable number of the participants' dream maps and diagrams as large wall drawings.

In summing up this period of Hiller's work in Musics magazine in 1976, John Sharkey wrote: No role is allocated to an 'audience'. The participants are passive and active in both the viewing and participating sense, and what occurs among the group is an enactment or, more appropriately, an enacting, of the work... The artist is a participator, as well as the originator, of all her projects. Once the over-all form has been set... she is happy to move into the background and as participant take part in the realisation of the work... Susan Hiller's original approach combines various roles, as artist, in giving form to an amalgamation of idea, as producer in organizing people and finance, as a participant in the actual work, and documenting the outcome... [The dream maps] are art(ifacts) showing the process of art through dreaming. They 'belong' to the artist only insofar as they provide a record of the group adventure...

Reprinted from Susan Hiller, Tate Gallery, Liverpool: 1996.
Copyright 1996 Tate Gallery and Rebecca Dimling Cochran.