Tag Archives: dream meaning

Burn Down The King’s Castle

Alchemical Bride 30 (Abigail Adams)

The last time I team-taught the Coordinated Studies class, The Power of Myth, I had a series of Big Dreams such as those that Carl Jung described in his writings. I was reading his autobiography, and studying the Red Book. I would teach during the day, and after grading and reading, was working on 50-foot long drawings until late at night.

I was reading about Chinese Alchemy and acupuncture one Saturday when I fell asleep. I dreamt the image that would become Full Immersion, one of the mural scale drawings from the MetaCorpus series. In my dream I rose out of the water, felt the flooding water recede from my body, which in turn transmuted into mercury.

Genesis, above
Full Immersion, below

It was the weekend, so I went downstairs to my studio upon awakening, only to discover that it had just flooded! We hadn’t had any rain in weeks. Where did the water come from?


I’d been reading about this in mystical alchemical texts: As above so below, as within so without. Jung himself experienced such strange occurrences– the internal life projects outward and manifests in material observable reality. Woo-woo mumbo jumbo. Nonetheless, it happened for real. I had many archetypal dreams during this time of my life, as I was undergoing all kinds of personal transformations.

Some weeks later I had the most memorable dream of all. It unfolded not in the weird spatial and time distortions typical of dreams, but like a neatly edited film. It had a cinematic quality to it, mostly because it was symmetrical, had mirrored language, followed a narrative structure. In fact, when I describe the dream to others, I often call it a film and have to correct myself.

In the dream, I was tagging a castle with red spray paint, and yelling, “Burn the king’s castle!” over and over again, leading a mob carrying pitchforks, spades, guns, not unlike the storming of the Bastille.

detail of Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix

I clambered on top of the castle, where Marcel Duchamp asked me to marry him. I agreed and we flew off together, floating above the melee below.

In the dream, I am back in my studio when a friend comes to visit and asks, “Hey Tati, what’s new.” I tell her I married Duchamp. I say “DiDi and I got married and he lives in the shack.” I am so delighted to take her to meet him. He is spotlit, cutting out tin figures and placing them on a chess-board. We watch this careful orchestration for a bit, when suddenly music plays and we begin to dance. It is a polka and we bounce off of walls, ceilings, floors, in what could be an infinite space even though the actual room is quite small– we’re inside a cardboard box.

One of my alchemical ovens in the studio

When the music stops, DiDi goes back to his work, and I turn to my friend, who is laughing, breathless, and I exclaim, “Isn’t he a riot?” I woke up laughing.

It’s taken so many years for me to understand this Big Dream. It’s come back to me a number of times but has always been undecipherable. I get it now, as it unfolds daily in my studio. I think in some ways, I could never have conceived of the Alchemical Bride series, of storming Picasso’s castle with my Cubism 3.0 if I had set out to do so directly.

‘If I have ever practiced alchemy, it was in the only way it can be done now, that is to say, without knowing it.”- Marcel Duchamp

Flux Year Box 2 by George Maciunas 

Last academic year I went on sabbatical to storm a different castle. A white castle. I set out to film documentaries that shone a light on PoC artists in my community who are making a living in their chosen art profession. They prove that you can have a good life doing what you love right here, in Seattle. Mind you, I’ve never studied film-making. I make films as a part of my interdisciplinary inquiry, like a Fluxus artist more interested in experimentation and experience than product. In this case, I wanted my films to topple the notion that only white European males can make a living in the visual arts. The videos were posted on YouTube and links sent to high schools with the hopes of encouraging the young creative to follow their hearts, and pursue careers in the arts.

I released them in the spring, and this Fall term I am already seeing more brown and black faces in my classrooms. I’m yelling “Burn the king’s castle!” hoping all the emerging talents coming to SCC will kick and stomp and tear down the walls of art’s gated community

Another Bastille– All during 2018 I often wore a beard in the studio, assuming my trans persona, Puer, the Eternal Man Child. I painted a series of landscapes, taking experiential trips to various landscapes using an Aleph (in actuality, my iPhone). I think it interesting that the only time that the city of Seattle has purchased one of my works for their portable art collection, was when I painted as this male persona. Things that make you go Hmmmm.

Puer looking back in the mirror

Puer, is a purely performative persona for me. I am cisgender, and comfortable with my skin. But by wearing a beard, I claimed for myself the privileges awarded only to gendered males. I gave myself permission to play at the easel, without any political agendas. Maybe giving myself that permission was psychological gold for me.

True alchemy, in psychological and philosophical terms constitutes tearing down the conflicting male-female duality, uniting Puer and Puella in the individuated Self, integrating the personality like a symbolic Gnostic Anthropos.

I realize now that DiDi and Tati sound very similar. That the fabulous recurring Big Dream that has always made my pulse quicken and brought laughter to my lips is none other than my feminist art practice. That the Alchemical Bride series is me, tagging the castle, getting ready to checkmate the king.

Marcel Duchamp in his trans persona, Rrose Selavy

I cut out well over 1000 brides for my series, so I think I’ll be playing chess inside my Fluxus cardboard boxes, those little alchemical ovens known as Houses of the Chick. I’ll be dancing off of all those reflections and refractions, brush-stroke by brush-stroke fr some time to come.

What Is Actually Happening When Dreams Speak To Us?

Two Lane Reveries Mixed media on clayboard 10” x 8” from Puer series

Inspiring me today, this quote from Anthony Stevens book, The Two Million Year Old Self, “…in our dreams we speak to the species, and the species answers back.”

According to Jung, our physical biology expresses that which is intangible, archetypal material, that in my mind, is his term for transcendental truths. Jung’s theories of archetypes and the collective unconscious mean that the deep, ancient structures of our brain house not just our personal experiences but also connects us all. Like Freud, he believed dreams also represent aspects of our waking life. We’ve all had these dreams, they’re like mental laundry. But then there are the other dreams…what Jung calls Big Dreams.

Interior Castle 10” x 8” mixed media on Clayboard from Puer series

Many many years ago I had an amazing dream, I saw a rush of the most pristine water, so beautiful it took my breath away, flowing right in front of me with Orca and dolphins following the salmon. The Old Woman who showed me these marvels told me water used to flow through Olive Street, and I realized this was an intersection I walked past every day. A couple of years ago I found out that the Duwamish believe that this area was all under water. I could not have had this dream without that deep structure in the brain, our collective unconscious, which connects us all. But the nature of that connection…that is still a juicy question I don’t think has been thoroughly answered.

Moonrise Take To The Skies oil on canvas 12” x 12” from Puer series

Have you ever had an eery, numinous dream, what Jung would call a big dream? What was it about? Do you keep a dream journal?

I used to, but at one point I stopped. I have always been deeply moved by dreams– I am Cuban after all, with a spiritualism and Santeria background. That I’m a Buddhist now doesn’t change things. I have in my time been bullied about all three histories. American and Western cultures only sanction certain myths and privilege Cartesian rationalism- above everything. Big dreams, spiritual connections, no.

Baileys Beads 3 12” x 12″ oil and marker on canvas board from Puer series

So, I’m reading The Two Million Year Old Self, enjoying every sentence, stopping often to think through the text, agree or disagree as prompted by my mental meanderings.

Something the author isn’t including in his research is the fact that birds, not just mammals dream. Corvidae and Psittacine cognitive research already confirm these species are highly intelligent. Research on zebra finches proves these little birds dream, and anecdotal observations of parrots and cockatiels in captivity show that they also have REM. I think it’s a significant oversight to not consider this fact in exploring the phenomenology of the collective unconscious. In other words, our individual experiences of shared organs of the collective unconscious.

Stevens relates that because our physical brain structures house the reptilian, old mammalian, and neomammalian brains that we share archetypal dreams, structural memories with ancient reptiles and mammals. He explains our recurring dreams of falling, for example, with the experiences of our ancestral mammalian experience of living in the trees and falling. But what about our bird brain? Do we have one? It’s my understanding we have different evolutionaty paths than birds do.

So if we don’t share a bird brain, what about our recurring dreams of flying? Every single person I know has at one time or another dreamt about flight. And I don’t buy Freud’s offhand interpretation that these are mere avoidance mechanisms, though some dreams of flying certainly qualify.

Why? Because I have on many occasions from earliest childhood had dreams of not just flying, but of having to run first to get enough loft under my wings. Dreams where I actually think through the steps, just as I had to think through the steps when I first learned to ride a bike, or to swim. Learning an action is a very specific kind of thinking and experience. So why would I have dreams of learning how to handle my body to get aloft? That’s not an avoidance mechanism. That’s an archetypal code.

Think back on your own dreams about flying…were any of them learning to fly dreams?

What am I getting at? What if the collective unconscious isn’t solely an organic biological structure in the brain, the structures we share with members of our species and it’s evolutionary ancestors? What if it is also a structure that allows us to tune into the unconscious brainwaves of other animals, for example, birds? Like a biological EEG?

Homing The Psittacine, watercolor on paper 12” x 9” from Pure series

What if all the myths of shapeshifting stem from this primal dream experience? What if we bounce around evolutionary memories in the deep structures of the collective unconscious and during sleep catch random brain waves from the animal life around us? I can see an evolutionary advantage to such an ability. Rational observation is fine but doesn’t feed the imagination the way a phenomenological understanding of embodiment does. Didn’t our ancestors need that imagination to be able to rise to the top of the food chain, to mold nature to their needs?