Bound in loops of delicate black cotton thread and adorned with a broken brass house key, Dream Book is a continuation of vanguard performance artist Marina Abramović’s investigations into what art is and can be. Similar to her signature performance pieces and works that engage the audience, the present work pushes the definition of art to its limits and encourages the close examination of our everyday social condition. This sealed Dream Book takes as its main material the 2012 book of the same name, which was published as a companion piece to Abramović’s Dream House, a 100-year-old farmhouse in Matsuyonama, Japan converted by the artist into a retreat for ritualized dreaming. Located in a remote wooded area, the Dream House invites guests to spend the evening in a specially crafted room with deep-set boxes for beds, uniform-like pajamas and a built-in colored lighting system that awakens visitors in the morning, who then record their dreams in books. Designed to stimulate visitors’ appreciation for dreams as well as an awareness of the present moment, the Dream House is Abramović’s response to the hustle of modern life. The 2012 book is the artist’s guide to experiencing the spaces of the Dream House, and it also includes 100 dreams that were written down by guests between July 2000 and November 2010. To fully experience a dream is to be removed from everything except for the present moment. Dream Book similarly calls attention to the here and now by frustrating our expectations. The book, permanently closed, is denied its crucial function since it can never be read, and the key tied to the book has been snapped in half, rendering it useless for opening a lock. Echoing this feeling of separation, Abramović’s portrait on the cover shows the artist with eyes closed and her hand oustretched in front of her face, touching a glass barrier between herself and the viewer. This theme of exploring the physical, mental and emotional distances between the artist and the audience is central in Abramović’s oeuvre. Whether working in performance, sculpture or conceptual projects such as Dream Book, Abramović and the participants are encouraged to contemplate and embrace their solitude and connections with one another, signaling the alternately isolated endurance and basic human connection inherent to both performance and daily existence. Dream Book thus represents an extension of Abramović’s inquiries into social connections and awareness of the conditions of existence, and it is also linked to the artist’s ongoing project of the Dream House, making it demonstrative of her continued engagement with and new interpretations of the subject.
Marina Abramović (b. 1946), Dream Book. Yellow highlighter marker on printed book with black cotton thread and brass key fragment. 8 1/3 x 5 4/5 x 4/5 in. Published in 2012 and executed in 2014.