Sharing Dreams: Bongsu Park talks about her upcoming DREAM RITUAL performance

Bongsu Park
Bongsu Park (photo: Oliver Curtis)

Dreams. Freud made a whole career out of them. We are supposed to have them every night, but most of the time we can’t remember them. Cultures around the world have myths and legends in which dreams are laden with symbolic and predictive power. And in Korea, in a quaint folk custom, dreams are bought and sold so that the purchaser can benefit from the good fortune predicted by the dream.

Bongsu Park, a multi-faceted artist whose works include installation, video and performance; Jinyeob Cha, a dancer and performer who choreographed the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics; and haihm, a musician and sound designer with two albums to her credit; are collaborating in in an upcoming performance that explores one aspect of dream culture from a Korean perspective. The performance is part of a wider Dream Auction project which engages with dreams from a number of different angles.

The journey has grown out of Park’s Internal Library project (2017) in which members of the public shared their private secrets, dreams and memories which became part of a performance incorporating actors, video and speech. That project was one of LKL’s top performances of 2017. Park is now exploring each of those underlying themes. Secrets underpinned her recent Playground collaboration with Rambert dancer / choreographer Liam Francis. Memories will form part of a future project. LKL got together with Bongsu to talk about the Dream project, and in particular the upcoming Dream Ritual performance at the Coronet Theatre:

Tell me about the upcoming Dream Ritual.

DREAM RITUAL is a video and dance performance that explores ideas of dreams, sleep and the subconscious. Members of the public – friends and complete strangers – have been submitting their memorable dreams via my project’s website. Together with Jinyeob Cha and haihm, I am creating an immersive performance featuring those dreams.

The stage installation will be formed by hanging semi-translucent fabric layers representing the stages of sleep and dormant brain activity. The layers will be used as a projection screen where the participant’s dreams will be shown. This setting will create dramatic effects of depth between the dream texts and the imagery echoing ever deeper and gradually decaying into darkness of unconsciousness. During the performance, the projection of the participants’ dreams will be interwoven with the performance.

Dream Ritual 3
Jinyeob Cha rehearsing for the Dream Ritual. (photo: Bongsu Park)

Is there a particular storyline that underpins the performance, or is it more abstract? If so, how do you want people to feel as they watch the Dream Ritual?

The performance is inspired to a certain extent by the story of Munhui in Korea’s old chronicles called the Samguk Sagi – she buys a dream from her sister and ends up marrying a king. But the event is more about encountering and experiencing the dreams of other people. The performance will be a new form of shamanistic ritual where people’s dreams will become sacred and transferred to a spiritual realm.

I don’t want to dictate how people should feel as they watch the performance. They should react in whatever way the performance affects them. I don’t want this performance to be only of my own creation but rather would like to create it along with the audience. A project made by everyone’s dreams. During the performance the audience will experience their own dream narratives suffused with other people’s dreams and becoming part of collective unconsciousness. Encounters with other people’s dreams and shared moments can offer the possibility of a better understanding of each other and our nature in a unified area of unconscious.

How do the workshops at the Wellcome Collection and the KCCUK fit in with the project?

The subject of dreams is so vast and complicated that I am having to explore it in several ways. So I arranged a workshop with Hazel Riley – an author, teacher and shamanic practitioner – at Wellcome Collection for their Open Platform programme, which went really well. I’m organising a similar dream writing workshop at the Korean Culture Centre this coming Friday, and hoping for similar results. Do come!

The official Dream Ritual poster
The official Dream Ritual poster (photo: Bongsu Park)

How does the performance relate to the wider Dream Auction project?
DREAM RITUAL has grown out from DREAM AUCTION. I wanted to explore further how people’s dreams could become integral to a new expressive art form.

DREAM AUCTION is taking its cue from a Korean tradition of dream exchange. I’m going to bring into question how our dreams can be valued and traded by re-imagining the Auction House as a forum for people to exchange their dreams. I believe this process can give us the opportunity to talk about the undiscovered area of dream and dreaming – their value, place and meaning in our life. The meaning of dream is such a difficult question to answer so I want to ask to the people about their experience and idea about dreams. So the wider DREAM AUCTION project isn’t only an auction. It’s about sharing dreams through an online platform, through the workshops, and through a performance that is created from those dreams.

Tell me about the charity that the auction will be benefiting.

The proceeds of the DREAM AUCTION will be going to a number of good causes, each one related in some way to the creative arts and in particular those focused on young people. By doing so I’d like to make a connection between audience’s dreams and those still looking to build their own in the future.

I believe the Korean culture of buying and selling dreams is about sharing luck amongst each other rather than a transaction that reflects only a monetary aspect. The psychology of the person who sells their dream is to give luck/confidence to the one who buys the dream. Making this Dream Auction around a charity for children seems to me to be the right thing to do.

Jinyeob Cha in Dream Ritual
Jinyeob Cha in Dream Ritual (photo: Bongsu Park)

You’ve recently launched a Crowdfunder appeal. What costs is it designed to cover and what rewards can people expect?

The money raised will cover the flight and accommodation for Jinyeob and hopefully haihm too. The production costs for the stage installation will be the other main expense. As I mentioned before, I’m going to create a fabric labyrinth using organza material. The equipment (projector, lighting, camera etc) hire costs a lot. There are also many hidden cost such as transport, food, stage background and rigging. Most of all, I hope I can pay some artist fee to our team and technicians. They are highly talented and deserved to be paid.

The commitment of our team and the Coronet Theatre’s generous support for their space and staff encouraged me to make this project happen. But we still need funding as my grant applications were unsuccessful this time. The contributions raised through the fundraiser are crucial to staging the show. In return, I have created a number of reward for contributors including my artwork that relate to the themes of the show: it comes with certificate of authenticity, invitation of our Korean home cooking dinner and one of my specific dream text printed on scroll designed for DREAM AUCTION.

The DREAM RITUAL takes place at the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill, 3 – 6 July. Book tickets here.

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