Dream Time in the Gallery

Dream Time in the Gallery was a single event: a night-time sharing of group sleep energy surrounded by spiritual art. Around a dozen art lovers from Italy and America assembled at my exhibition, Yoga: Interior and Eternal at Castello 925 gallery in Venice, Italy (affiliated with the Venice Biennale 2022). The exhibition featured floor-to-ceiling art, each about six feet long and two-to-three feet wide, made from silk and other media. The images resulted from close-up examination of strenuous muscular activity around the joints, essential in yoga. When I applied wet paint to the moving muscles, intriguing designs emerged, which I photographed and later arranged into unusual compositions.

The gallery owner, Luca Caldironi, is a psychiatrist and he first suggested the Dream Time experience in the Gallery. I had long desired the same type of experiment, so we quickly agreed to do it. I felt a craving for this kind of communal experience. 

Our ancient ancestors slept in communal dwellings and routinely exchanged essential night-time vitalities (which they may have understood better than we do today) surrounded by their powerful art. Two months ago, I saw large homes and ceremonial centers where the First Nations villagers in British Columbia in Canada still dwell in their Long Houses amid their magnificent totem poles, sculptures, handwoven blankets and clothing that depicted their spiritual images and messages.

I believe there is much to understand about the energetic flow between humans, especially mysterious night-time dynamisms. People don’t agree on how phenomena such as Extra Sensory Perception, telepathy, synchronicities or coincidences work. When a group of fertile women live together, we don’t know why their periods all occur on the same day each month. For a sympathetic group, such as ours, to share night, sleep and dream vivacities surrounded by spiritual art based on yoga constituted a new frontier of endeavor for me, a modern Westerner without an indigenous experience of shared dreams.

A group of like-minded souls gathered in the gallery, coincidently, on Venice’s St. Martino holiday. St. Martino was known for his extreme benevolence, giving his own warm clothes to poor people during winter, an auspicious omen for our communal investigation.

To succeed in the group endeavor, compromise was vital. People in the group seemed to realize this and tried to accommodate the others. Dr. Caldironi started the evening by generously treating us to a magnificent dinner of local Venetian food. He set the stage as we began our Dream Time in the Gallery, feeling grateful and happily content. 

At the same time, camping meant accepting some discomfort in a rougher and new bed; in our case, air mattresses. We talked until one in the morning, way past my bedtime. I got so tired, I felt dizzy. However, everyone respectfully listened to each person’s stories and opinions, although I found a couple of them tiresome, as often happens for me in any group. One person privately confided in me that she was unable to brush her teeth in strange places. She planned to sneak out at three a.m. to walk a block to her apartment to brush her teeth. (But, she got so involved in the sleep-over, she stayed the whole time.) I brought ear plugs in case of snorers. There were two, whose loud blasting exhalations penetrated the barriers I’d stuffed in my ears. Luckily, the ear plugs softened the din enough that I could sleep. It seemed that, in the spirit of St. Martino, we each figured out how to make the experience workable. 

Did profound revelations occur? There were no lightning bolts of enlightenment or even Extra Sensory Perception. No one had the same dream. About half of the group didn’t remember their dreams. Some had vague feelings of what might have been a dream. This surprised and disappointed me until I later realized that they probably represented most people’s awareness of their dreams.

During the night, I had a strong dream. In my mind’s eye, I saw a tightly wrapped small object. The outer layer slowly loosened more and more. The looser the covering became, the more satisfied I felt. This tightly-wound object seemed to symbolize the tension I’d been feeling before the Dream Time event. The process of loosening seemed to represent my slow relaxation into the process of trusting that the group would find an appropriate level of meaning and I could let go of control. No one else in the group experienced anything similar to my dream.

In the morning, we gathered in a circle near a single burner which heated water for our tea, feeling like a primeval group drawn to a nurturing “hearth.” Several people made humorous comments about our eager huddle around the “fire,” causing general laughter. In an honest, heart-felt manner, we shared our dreams, non-dreams and hunches of possible dreams. 

Several participants stated that, during the night, when they temporarily opened their eyes and saw the art, they found comfort. The human-sized wall pieces seemed to be sentinels, emanating a protective quality that instantly made them feel peaceful and at home, even in an odd sleeping space.

I shared this sentiment. As the creator, I’ve lived with and napped with my art for years and enjoyed profound ease in its presence. It fascinated me that others also experienced this deep sense of well-being with the art.

At that time, I felt the full force of our group cohesion, a deeper level of tolerance of  each person and faith in the group as a whole. Willing to make ourselves vulnerable, we shared something profound by simply being together and trusting each other during our hours of unconsciousness. I felt closer to each person in the group.

Dr. Caldironi offering the group large decorated cookies of St. Martino for our breakfast. They were delicious.

Perhaps this was true generosity, the St. Martino’s kind; that caused us to compromise and allowed a sensitive process that led to more trust and heightened ease in a group of relative strangers from different countries. This, in itself, was a profound experience and all too rare in our modern world. Camping out with art personally proved to be one path toward enhanced fellow-feeling.

Kaethe Kauffman – Yoga: Interiore e Eterno (Yoga: Interior & Eternal)
Castello Gallery 925 Galleria
Venice, Italy
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