Aren’t we all familiar with the deeply personal experience of waking up alone, in anguish and despair, from the depths of a nightmare? Whether it’s disordered sleeping, sleep paralysis or the more regular frightening dream, the night and its terrors have kept us occupied since the very beginning of humanity. For this issue of Simulacrum, we – together – delve into the furthest corners of our minds to discover the dark and disorienting meaning we might find there.
But a nightmare is much more than something to be fearful of. The nightmare is entangled with our histories and can lead us to our deepest selves, by bringing up feelings which we don’t dare to feel in real life. It has provided many creators with inspiration for their art of many forms. As we will discover within this issue of Simulacrum, this personal aspect of the nightmare can lead to incredibly diverse approaches and interpretations that we hope will allow you to reconsider the meaning and feeling that nightmares can bring us.
Introducing this issue, Neža Kokol’s Nightmares of Everyday Life shows us the mundanity yet complexity of our most common fears and nightmares. These elusive yet universal fears are listed and spelt out for us. The familiarity of the nightmares that fill this list is reassuring yet confronting, showing the banality of man’s fears.
Joyce Poot presents us with a more directly personal perspective in Walking Covered in a Thick Layer of Dust. Writing about her own fascinating dreams, Poot uses surrealist and situationist ideas to argue that walking is a way of processing and a response to the (unconscious) mind. Just as many turn to art or music to describe their feelings, Poot turns to art to describe her dreams, relating her experiences to Escher’s Relativity.
One of our own editors, Niels Noot, writes about finitude in his short story Miasma. A description; like a thought, of the end of time, the end of humanity: Miasma captures the imagination and makes the reader feel and see Noot’s depiction of humanity’s demise. In it, modern images of riots, fire, and pain mingle with classical ideas and representations of Hell.
The second essay of this issue, Een blik in een gitzwarte tunnel, relates the nightmare to multisensory art. By analyzing the work of Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, Jonas van Kappel reminds us that a nightmare is much more than a simple frightening dream: it can be a feeling experienced while fully awake, or even the constant reality of those living under oppressive regimes and conditions.
In Jérémy Bernard’s fiction Where Dreams Come True, the dreamer takes back power over their narrative. Bernard tells us: ‘I’ve learnt by now that the less I see of the dream the more control I have.’ This control leads the dreamer towards a new reality. Did the dream come true? And did the dreamer find Roxane?
Questions of reality appear in The Imaginary Real: Virtual Negative Space by Kenneth Geurts, which reflects on the digital nightmare that is manifesting itself into our existence. Geurts speaks of newly formed realities, simulacra and the unrestrained nature of capitalism that is not limited to ‘real life.’ Allow yourself to be plunged into an existential crisis as you read his article about the nightmare of an existence that the digitizing world may bring us.
Melancholia (of the Spring)/Nightmare of the Subconscious by Denise van Rooij plunges us into the depths of our subconscious. In this essay, Van Rooij illustrates how the nightmare can make its remarkable entrance in even the most unexpected places. With the help of several artworks, including one by her own hand, she encourages us to follow the pattern of the nightmare: delve deeply into your own unconscious self and discover the surprising messages that might be buried there.
A comparable art historical and analytical approach is taken in the essay ‘Monsters of Folly and Superstition’, in which Kim Mulder researches the many different ways the Spanish artist Francisco Goya symbolically weaved the nightmare into his art. Using various prints by Goya as examples, Mulder shows that nightmares and their characteristics are a recurring theme throughout art history, and that Goya was the first artist to use the nightmare as a form of expressionism.
The personal, first-person perspective makes its return in Frank van der Wulp’s short nonfiction story Perpetual Panoptic Purgatory, which is written through the eyes of a person dealing with night terrors. The dreamstate is not mere fiction, Van der Wulp shows – it is reality. Similarly, in Tussen Droom en Daad author Laure Vanrijckeghem illustrates the endless reality of feverish sleepless nights. With help of the poem Het Huwelijk by Flemish writer Willem Elsschot, Vanrijckeghem describes that – ironically – there is no greater nightmare than not dreaming.
We close this issue with Sanne Kabalt’s essay Dissolving | the dark, the dream, which reflects upon the varied writings of – amongst others – Roger Caillois and Elena Ferrante. Kabalt shows us that nightmares have a tendency to ‘spill over’: they dissolve the borders between dream and reality, and have effects that linger long after we wake. Sharing details of her own personal experiences, Kabalt leaves us with the following message: ‘We may welcome the ghosts and allow them to haunt us. Instead of looking away from them, we may look to our nightmares for wisdom.’