a hybrid installation about dreams, memory and the imagination

music Jim Denley
video Emmanuela Prigioni Alebardi
texts Jane Goodall
sound Ian Stevenson
performer Tess de Quincey
design Russell Emerson

“What else than a natural palimpsest is the human brain? Everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings, have fallen on your brain as softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet in reality not one has been extinguished.”
Thomas De Quincey

Enter a threshold, into a space of darkness. As your eyes gradually become accustomed to the light levels you can make out a holographic shifting video image that dances on the walls of a black tent whist voices erupt from different parts of the space. As you gradually navigate around the space, you observe others entering and negotiating the darkness whilst your ability to ‘see’ increases. At times a seemingly ghostly apparition moves within the tent between the layers of video images.

This new hybrid installation for gallery spaces forms part of The Opium Confessions, an overarching enquiry across different media platforms into the writings of Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859): poet, opium addict, wandering adventurer, genius of the imagination.

We live in a culture where science offers an understanding of dreams and visions in terms of technical brain function. Yet this culture has other dimensions, deep histories that honour the reality of visionary experience and find powerful forms of meaning in it. Voices of prophesy traditionally carry ancestral overtones, bringing the past and the future into conjunction and expanding the dimensions of present experience. To take us into these dimensions, we draw on the writings of Thomas De Quincey, an ancestor of Tess de Quincey, whose writings on visionary experience we have been mining in a series of collaborative performance works committed to realising dimensions of the human psyche that get lost from view in daily life.

Besides Thomas De Quincey’s words, we bring together the voices of people from diverse cultural traditions in Sydney who express the transformative aspects of memory and dreaming. We have recorded their stories which draw on their individual traditions but also express the entwined dreams of a wider cross-cultural community.

The composition of VISIONARIUM is a collaborative, hybrid process involving music and image in spatial counterpoint with voice. This rendering never quite escapes the force of De Quincey’s idiosyncratic prose, and works to bring out the many voices in which his writing seems to speak. Through this engagement in his writings, we are looking for strong contemporary resonances with the visions that show us the world as a larger reality, a place of vastness and uncertainty, filled with the changing weathers of the psyche.

Exhibition Details

By popular demand the exhibition is extended until Friday 20 April, 2012
Gallery hours Mon to Fri 11am to 5pm

SCA Research Gallery
Balmain Road, Rozelle (enter at Cecily St)


original season 5 – 30 March