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We scavenge and curate homegrown works from aspiring artists and dreamers alike.

The Reluctant Dream Architect


The Reluctant Dream Architect

Wen Xin Foo

Featuring Debbie Ding


Its workings and purpose is as mysterious as the galaxies and the cosmic, and has existed since the birth of humanity. It transcends beyond your educational level and strikes an interest within the arts, media and science industries. You can experience it in your waking, sleeping or in-between states, though without much control unless you are trained to command it at will. 

Similar to our waking state, a dreamer can be an actor or an observer. And sometimes the roles overlap. "I do get sleep paralysis from time to time, which is like when you wake up but can't get up, and it seems like a dream or being trapped in sleep," said Debbie Ding, 29, author of Dream Syntax. 


The project is a never-ending project.


 "Similarly I also get dreams in which I wake up and record the dream, but only to suddenly wake up again for real this time, and realize that I did not record anything at all."


Exhibition at Galerie Steph


Designed from her interest in systems, and "the aesthetics of systems, signs and archives", Ding documented her dreams for 6 years in the forms of map. She decided to use Adobe Illustrator to create the maps after a failed attempt with Autocad, and all accounts of human interaction and relationships were presented as stories. 




In reminiscence of the Chinese saying "日有所思,夜有所梦", which loosely translates as "a thought in a day surfaces once more as a dream at night", the absence of a religious, superstitious and spiritual belief in her life is evident in Dream Syntax.



Some of her dreams appeared to be a mesh of different realities where friends, strangers and lost items from a completely different walk of life meet each other for the first time in her space.

In her favorite dream "My Variation on the Lorca Variations", she found an exact copy of her book Lorca Variations in her old friend Raist's bookshelf, even though she was sure that she has sold it. Prior to this dream, she had read Lorca Variations during her first year as a Literature major at National University of Singapore.


"I was unimpressed at the time, and I had completely forgotten about the book or the premise of the book, but was prompted to go back and look for it," she explained. "I enjoyed rereading the book a lot more when I was older, later in life."

Favourite stories on dreams? Perhaps not so much about dreams but about built spaces. I like H.G. Wells's "The Door in the Wall".


"Initially when I began the project I had the feeling that my dream spaces might be overlapping but after collecting my dreams for all these years, I think this is not the case. All of the spaces are different and don't really connect up. So far it seems that I don't have repeating dreams set in the same place more than once."


Reading her dreams, it's easy to pass them off as documentations of her life experiences until you notice some subtle inconsistency between the events. I can't help but wonder what more could happen if her dreams were not interrupted. 

When I threw her a hypothetical occupation of a Dream Architect, Ding was reluctant to take on the label despite calling herself "a sort of architect for imaginary things". For someone who is obsessed with documentation, archives and systems, her interest and definition of art surprisingly lies within the speculation of histories and futures.

 Comfortable in her present role as an archivist, her art process is inspired by her experience as a programmer/designer where the approach is mathematical and systematic. To her, the mind is a terminal for memory input, and the output is expressed in the form of how spaces influence her emotions.


Debbie Ding at The Artist, The Book and The Crowd. Image by Joscelin Chew.

I think real life is a big influence on the "architecture" in dreams.


"I'd imagine if dreams could be recorded and played back they would also be all over the internet for download and we would download all sorts of dreams on the internet and it would be a right mess," she reasoned, referring to one of her favorite science fiction film "Strange Days" as a possibility of how one could access another person's dreams.


"People'll be googling for the dreams of their exes to see if they appear, or checking out the dreams of people whom they've met once at a party, like how people constantly google or search for each other on Facebook. I imagine it would be a privacy land mine!"

If there is one recurring topic that could bind the whole of humanity on an amicable note, regardless whether you are from city, urban or rural spaces, it would be dreams. While the word "imagining" tend to take on a negative connotation of being unrealistic, or in relation to a mental disorder, dreams are more forgivable. And in Ding's case, it's simply an extension of her interest in spaces from her previous art series of documenting urban and geographical environment.  




Dream Syntax is available for purchase at 

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