Saturday, February 8, 2014

Analysis of Cassandra Sechler's Nightmare: "The Wall Between Doors"

Cassandra Sechler is a multimedia artist living in San Francisco, California. She primarily works with film, video, photography, and sculpture and runs a DIY film collaborative with Craig Jacobson called Dreams For Dead Cats Productions.

Her background is in conceptual art and psychology, which aids her in providing her viewer with expressionistic works that are both personal and poetic. The nature of gender, identity, dreams, technological infrastructure, and her place within them are often the focus of her work as a visual artist.

Sechler is currently working with c.3.3. films on a horror anthology called Blue Noon and a nightmarish web series titled The Phantoms Came to Meet Him.
http://c33films.com/

Nightmare: "The Walls Between Doors"

I had a sequence of bizarre dreams last night. First I was shopping at a thrift store with my parents for Halloween costumes. I went to go try a few more on, and the dressing room connected to this restaurant that was next door. So to have the most privacy I had to change awkwardly toward the back of the dressing room in this part that was narrow with low ceilings. I ended up just buying the costume that I was in because it was too hard to change back into what I was originally wearing.

Next, I walked to my apartment, and this weird looking woman, overweight with scraggly hair, unhealthy skin wearing a pink shirt is following me. I tried to ask her what she wanted. She wanted in my house. Once she forced her way in I couldn't get her to leave. Then things started to get strange. I noticed 3 of what appeared to be mouse holes in the wall, the kind you only see in cartoons. But then I noticed that they were much more than that...there were miniature doors embedded in each one. Were there more of these? I began looking all around the house to see, and I found more....all different sizes as if people of different heights lived in our walls. I asked Craig if he had noticed them before today. The answer was no. It was not until this strange woman arrived that the doors appeared. I asked her to leave, and she did without a word. She just laughed and run off. I slammed the door behind her wondering what on earth was going to become of these doors. Then a small blonde woman comes out of one of the doors. She's about 2.5 ' tall. She looks scared and then goes back into the wall. A minute later it is as if the whole family living in the wall comes out to see us. We discuss not being aware of the other's presence until now. We had been living separately and comfortably until now. They moved about like ghosts. I started to feel sick and started finding more doors...everywhere. Many of them were so small (under an inch!) that you would never notice them. I yelled for Craig to get the duct tape. And as I started to tape up the doors a voice told me that they were not real. I looked down at the small person I had grabbed a moment before who was now just a doll made out of beads. Then I woke up.
Dream Content

Dream 1:

The dream place at a thrift store. Maybe near Halloween. The dreamer is shopping for a costume with her parents. The dreamer tries on a few costumes. The dreamer is concerned with her privacy in a relationship with the size of the dressing room. The dreamer sticks with the costume that she is because the size of the room makes it too difficult for her to change.
Dream 2:

The Dream takes place outside (?) while dream is walking towards her apartment. Dreamer is being followed by a woman. The dreamer asked the woman what she wanted, and the woman forced her way into the apartment. The dreamer’s attention, then shifts to multiple doors that appear on the wall. The dream seeks to see if there are other doors around the apartment and finds many. The dreamer asks Craig if he has seen other doors. He says no. The dreamer realizes that there is a connection between the strange woman and the appearance of the doors. She asked the lady to leave and she left. The dreamer slammed the door behind the strange woman. A small blond woman appears from one of the doors, she is scared and disappears. Then many people appear at the little doors (dreamer used the word family). Dreamer becomes sick. She yelled at Craig to get duct tape, and the dreamer taped the doors shut. A voice says, “They are not real.” Dreamer grabs a little person and the little person is a doll made from beads. At this point the dreamer wakes up.

Latent Content:

I think this is a very interesting dream that plays on a very specific fear. The fear of choice. Or, as Eric Fromm might say the Fear of Freedom.
In the process of becoming emancipated from an overbearing authority/set of values, Fromm argues, we are often left with feelings of emptiness and anxiety (he likens this process to the individuation of infants in the normal course of child development) that will not abate until we use our 'freedom to' and develop some form of replacement of the old order. However, a common substitute for exercising "freedom to" or authenticity is to submit to an authoritarian system that replaces the old order with another of different external appearance but identical function for the individual: to eliminate uncertainty by prescribing what to think and how to act. (Fromm, 2014)
In the first dream the dreamer is entering a thrift store with her parents to find a Halloween costume. And, if you have ever been clothes shopping with a girl (depending on her temperament) seeking the right outfit could take some time. The typical cloths shopping experience (that I have been witness to) is processes that can take quite some time. A woman begins by surveying a large list of opportunities, thumbing through racks, holding clothes up against her body, and comparing and contrasting them in the mirror. There is a great patience required for surveying one options. Where do the parents come in? Parents are our first clothes shoppers. Assuming the dreamers parents are an opposite sex couple they are two very different orientations towards the shopping process. What does this mean for the dreamer? The dream is caught in a tension filled contradiction where the mother and father present two mutually exclusive methods of shopping for clothes I.E. making choices. So, what does it mean when the dreamer is caught an uncomfortable dressing room, and wishes to continue trying on trying other opportunities? I believe the dreamer has sided with one parent’s rational and logical approach to trying on clothes. If it fits wear it. Yet, she feels tension to be more like the other parent who isn't done surveying options. Of course, at bottom I don't believe this dream is about clothes. I believe it a revealing story about the dreamer’s relationship towards how she thinks about choice. Does she pursue submission to authority, even though it makes her suffer choices she does not want, or does she seek to break the cycle?

What are doors? Doors are a thing that separates one space from another. Sometimes doors serve a purpose and sometimes they do not. Some doors have locks, and separate a home from the outside world. They make us feel safe. They cut off the noise from outside. Sometimes doors are solid objects on hinges that swing open and closed. Some are on rails that slide right and left. Some are glass and transparent. Some doors have little holes to look through to see outside. But what are doors on a wall? What space are they transitioning to? In a Freudian film analysis, there is a case made for the top floor to represent the superego, the ground floor to represent the ego, and the basement to represent the Id. But what about the space between rooms? At this point we enter the unconscious.

The dreamer is being pursued by a woman who is confident, and persistent. When the woman asked what she wanted simply burst into the apartment. The woman made a choice without hesitation or guilt. When the dream is confronted with such clarity of choice, doors appear all over the apartment. This brings anxiety to the dreamer. When you make a choice you will make another. When you make a choice you open up a pile of new choices, and foreclose on a pile of choices that you no longer have access to. When realizing that there is an association between the strange lady and the little doors, a small woman appears at one of the little doors and disappears. It's almost as the little woman is coming to mock the dreamer for making the choice to be passive when confronted with the strange woman. There is something legitimately terrifying about having a stranger force their way into a home. Boundaries are crushed. Privacy and safety are corrupted. If you’re not safe in your home where can you be safe? When the family of little people appear the door it is almost as if the dreamer’s entire social network is condemning her for her choice. The dreamer confronted with this scene takes it upon herself to silence the family with duct-tape, until a voice proclaims that they are not real. What’s not real? The pressure she is receiving from her family about the way in which she is making her choices.

At the end of the dream, the dreamer is confronted with the fact that the little people were not really who they said they were, or rather did not merit the consistency of her first impression. The message she is that the forces that are laying pressure upon the dreamer in her waking life are just paper tigers. Paper tigers are a Japanese expression for something on paper that may seem scary upon first look, but its really just an image of a tiger and doesn't merit the first impression. The counter-intuitive point I would make is that this moment where the dreamer realizes that this little family is just beads, is the traumatic moment that is too traumatic for the dreamers mind state to continue to propel the dream forward. The moment reminded me of a point Zizek made:
Why do we dream? Freud’s answer is deceptively simple: the ultimate function of the dream is to enable the dreamer to stay asleep.... In a famous example from The Interpretation of Dreams, an exhausted father, whose young son has just died, falls asleep and dreams that the child is standing by his bed in flames, whispering the horrifying reproach: ‘Father, can’t you see I’m burning?’ Soon afterwards, the father wakes to discover that a fallen candle has set fire to his dead son’s shroud. He had smelled the smoke while asleep, and incorporated the image of his burning son into his dream to prolong his sleep. Had the father woken up because the external stimulus became too strong to be contained within the dream-scenario? Or was it the obverse, that the father constructed the dream in order to prolong his sleep, but what he encountered in the dream was much more unbearable even than external reality, so that he woke up to escape into that reality. (Zizek, 2014)
References:
Escape from Freedom Wikipedia,. (2014). Escape from Freedom. Retrieved 12 August 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fear_of_Freedo

Žižek, S.LRB · Slavoj Žižek · Freud Lives!: dreaming
Žižek, S., & Žižek, S. (2014). LRB · Slavoj Žižek · Freud Lives!: dreaming. London Review of Books. Retrieved 12 August 2014, from http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n10/slavoj-zizek/freud-lives

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