One Thousand Worlds  691

La Guillotine

6. A drop of water fell on his forehead. He was in Italy, was sweating violently, and was drinking white Orvieto wine.


“There are no dreams that are absolutely reasonable and that do not contain some incoherence, anachronism or absurdity.”

~Sigmund Freud 

While ill (and being cared for by his mother) Alfred Maury, one of the grandfathers of oneirology, had a dream of the Reign of Terror (his mother?)

and the French Revolution (revolting!), of which the guillotine is a symbol.

The one sickness (Revolution) engendered the other (Reign of Terror).

In the dream, after witnessing many executions, Maury was summoned before the tribunal, headed by Robespierre and Marat, which found him guilty of treason. He was then led to the platform to join those about to be executed. His head was placed on the lunette. He observed with horror as the blade descended and struck his neck.

Upon waking, he discovered that the canopy over his bed had fallen and the rod had landed upon his neck in the exact place the guillotine’s blade would have hit had he been beheaded. True to his belief that the source of the dream was in sensory impressions, he claimed that the entire dream had transpired in the extremely short time between the blow to his neck and his awakening.

La Guillotine has been cited by many oneirologists, most notably Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud interpreted the dream to reveal a latent desire to die a hero’s death as compensation for the frustration Maury had experienced as a failed politician.

Maury himself devised many experiments to prove his theory that our dreams reflect the conditions and phenomena of our direct environment. Experiments included:

  1. His lips and the tip of his nose were tickled with a feather.–He dreamt of a frightful form of torture: a mask made of pitch was placed on his face, and then pulled off so that it took his skin off with it.
  2. A pair of scissors was sharpened on a pair of pliers.–He heard bells pealing, followed by alarm-bells, and he was back in the June days of 1848.
  3. He was given some eau-de-cologne to smell.–He was in Cairo, in Johann Maria Farina’s shop. Some absurd adventures followed, which he could not reproduce. 
  4. He was pinched lightly on the neck.–He dreamt he was being given a mustard plaster and thought of the doctor who had treated him as a child.
  5. A hot iron was brought close to his face.–He dreamt that the ‘chauffeurs’ (The ‘chauffeurs’ [heaters] were bands of robbers in La Vendée [at the time of the French Revolution], who made us of the method of torture described.) had made their way into the house and were forcing its inhabitants to give up their money by sticking their feet into braziers of hot coal. The Duchess of Abrantes, whose secretary he was in the dream, then appeared.
  6. A drop of water fell on his forehead.–He was in Italy, was sweating violently, and was drinking white Orvieto wine.
  7. Light from a candle was repeatedly shone on him through a sheet of red paper.–He dreamt of the weather and of the heat and was once again in a storm he had experienced in the English Channel. 

~The Interpretation of Dreams 

Freud concluded (and others since—probably quite correctly) that what Dr. Maury actually studied were hypnagogic hallucinations (a term Maury himself coined) NOT actual dreams. Hypnogogic hallucinations can be influenced by sensory impressions while we sleep, whereas dreams occur in an altogether different stage of sleep. Hypnagogic hallucinations are often dream-like in nature, yet they occur in transition between consciousness and sleep when the brain is most dominated by alpha and theta waves, intermixed with some REM sleep. During this transition time, sleepers have some awareness of environment and external sensations. Dream sleep is entirely REM sleep; meaning we have no awareness of our external environment at all.


Dream of the Drawing for Everything alchemies dream-like things: images and texts and films and sketches and philosophy and half-thoughts and visions and moments and fragments of all kinds. Resting and exploring here may deepen your relationship with the oneiric and, therefore, all apparent reality. Resting and exploring here may augment your psyche’s healing tendency—as Jung called it—through highlighting and delighting in humanity’s hallucinatory creations. (Without them, after all, neurologists assure us we would go starkers.) It is time there was a potentially infinite, intimate museum to what cannot be seen. Welcome to the museum.

Dream of the Drawing for Everything is some of the collaboration between artist Nuala Clarke & writer Crystal Gandrud. Our work arises out of what dances on the edges of perception and our collective attention gravitates to the dream-like nature of human experience. We have been in collaboration since 2010. Our merged practices of visual and textual art unfold on a continuum, as part of an interconnected series evolving over time. Both performed “Fair Shouldered One” (a book which is not a book) at the &Now Literary Festival in Paris, 2012 and installed “Between Spaces”, a Yeats inspired dreamscape at the Hamilton Gallery, Sligo, 2013. Most recently participated in the Find Arts Project in Castlebar, Ireland. Our public art installation of words and images printed on linen, “Woven Found”, hung on Castle Street. The project won the best commissioning practice award from Allianz Business to Arts, 2014.

Nuala Clarke

Nuala Clarke, visual artist, lives and works between Co. Mayo and New York City. Educated at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, she moved to New York City in 1993. In September 2007, she received a fellowship to the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Mayo and began returning to Ireland from NY to work every year. Clarke has been represented by Boltax Gallery, NY since 2005. Recent shows include, Amid a Space Between: Irish Artists in America at the SFMoMa Artists Gallery, San Francisco, (2012); to Tremble into Stillness, a WB Yeats related show at Hamilton Gallery, Sligo; RHA invited artist; and A drawing for Everything, Ballinglen Arts Foundation (2013). BLINK, a public art installation at the Westport Arts Festival, Co. Mayo (2014). Upcoming shows (2015): Impressions of Yeats, Hamilton Gallery, Sligo; Of this place, Sligo and Madrid.

nualaclarke@gmail.com

Crystal Gandrud

Crystal Gandrud, writer, lives in New York City and Normandy, France. She holds an MFA, Creative Writing and a BFA, Classical Theatre. Recent publications include “Yeatsian: Numberless Dreamers,” The Encyclopedia Project, 2014, “Here,” Lost Magazine, and “Idiom: Woodbird Flies Early,” The Encyclopedia Project. Her dissertation, “Murdoch: the Mandala Maker,” was presented at Kingston University’s Iris Murdoch Conference (2006), London. At the most recent Murdoch Conference, she performed a multi-media excerpt from a work-in-progress entitled “The Forgotten Man,” inspired by Murdoch’s philosophical writings. She is under contract for a memoire entitled “Astonishment: A Litany of the Uncanny.”

gandrud@actuallyorange.com

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