We had the honor to speak with Leeza Pritychenko the artist behind the immersive work The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. We were excited to see this project get a place in our second Season due to the complex psychological nature of the project as well as Leeza's stunning visual work. This work is due to be completed as a VR experience that investigates the role of nightmares in our daily existence, psychology, and different cultures/myths.
Why do you feel this work should be produced now in our current zeitgeist?
I think the topic of nightmares always has been and will be relevant. Humanity has been intrigued by this phenomenon for centuries, we can see it manifested through certain myths or ancient spiritual practices. However, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" addresses this universal experience through the lens of psychological well-being. In today's world, there is a growing emphasis on mental health and self-reflection. The project provides an opportunity for individuals to delve into their subconscious and understand the symbolism and meaning behind their nightmares. Additionally, such events of recent years as the pandemic, climate change, and global political upheaval have highlighted the importance of facing our fears and taking care of our mental health, making this project particularly relevant and timely.
Does your work introduce a specific psychological practice within the experience?
Yes, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" takes its roots from the theories of analytical psychology - a practice founded at the beginning of the 20th century by Carl Gustav Jung. Most people are familiar with this practice via archetype theory (which later inspired the creation of Myers-Briggs 16 Personalities), such terms as extraversion and introversion, or synchronicity. In analytical psychology dreams are viewed as spontaneous and straightforward expressions of the Self – the center, or core, of the psyche. The deepest drive within the human psyche is the drive to the psychological and spiritual development of the personality, the individuation — successfully integrating all parts of your psyche into the whole; and dreams are integral to this process. Dreams are also a way of acquainting yourself with both the personal and collective unconscious.
In this particular line of study, nightmares are regarded as the main symbolic manifestation of one’s Shadow — the term coined by Jung — the unconscious and most repressed aspect of one’s personality.
The project acknowledges that dreams, including nightmares, are manifestations of the unconscious mind and provide valuable insights into the individual's psyche. By exploring the symbolism and meaning behind nightmares, the project encourages viewers to engage in self-reflection and gain a better understanding of their own psychological development. While it does not provide a specific psychological tool or advice, it aims to facilitate introspection and presents a new approach to the topic of mental health.
Do you see this work as a way to shift perspective around the complexity of negative emotions?
Yes! This is the main underlying purpose of the project, actually. I think in our society we are not necessarily taught how to deal with our routine negative experiences and are instead encouraged to repress certain feelings that are a perfectly normal reaction to whatever can be going on around us. But if something is repressed, it can instead manifest in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways. My project aims to shift the perspective around negative emotions by presenting nightmares as opportunities for self-reflection and personal growth. Instead of viewing nightmares as purely frightening experiences to be avoided, the project highlights their actual purpose - a tool our subconscious uses to communicate to us through symbols and metaphors and direct our attention to certain things within us that need to be resolved. By providing an understanding of each person's individual relationship with their nightmares and showcasing the possibilities of symbolic interpretations, the project encourages a more accepting and introspective approach to negative emotions. It challenges the notion of forced positivity during difficult times and promotes the idea that coming to terms with our inner struggles can lead to real growth and transformation.
How do you plan on organizing this work thematically?
"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" will be organized thematically by exploring different types of nightmares and their symbolism. The VR experience will take viewers on a journey through a fantastical dream world, where they will encounter various archetypal characters and situations related to different types of nightmares. There will be 3 separate VR experiences - or chapters - that represent a specific type of nightmare, such as being chased, losing teeth, falling, etc. The aim is to transform these nightmare scenarios into encouraging resolutions, illustrating the duality of processes happening in our subconscious, for example, a nightmare that starts as a scene of drowning in a dark ocean ends with the viewer swimming out of a beautiful waterfall. Additionally, the accompanying "dream journal" will present a series of CGI artworks representing common nightmares, accompanied by explanatory texts that delve into their meaning and symbolism.
Do you see the possibility of making this experience one that can be personalized per user due to the universal nature of nightmares?
Yes and no. I think introducing personalization in a sense of VR and technological interaction might feel too much like a gamification trick. Instead, I want to tap more into creating a sense of personalisation through storytelling, building the narrative in a way that it taps into the viewer’s subconscious and feels like it speaks to them directly. Indeed nightmare phenomenon is universal, but everyone experiences it differently, each with a different context of their waking life. While the overarching themes and symbolism of nightmares remain consistent, individuals may have unique experiences and interpretations based on their own subconscious, personal history, upbringing, environment and cultural background. Also, some types of nightmares shown in the project will resonate with some people more than others, i.e. some people are more prone to having dreams of being chased than falling and vice versa. As a result, each viewer's emotional perception of the VR experience will be entirely personal and unique.
About the Artists
Leeza Pritychenko is an Amsterdam-Based digital artist and CG motion designer, whose practice involves interactive installations, AV collaborations with musicians, VJ-ing and commissions for brands and cultural clients. Her work centers around exploring various aspects of human condition through the lens of digital media and technology, while marrying dark existentialism and the eeriness of the subconscious with storytelling and world-building.
She has shown her personal work across Europe, US and China; and has performed at various music and digital culture festivals, such as Dutch Design Week, ADE, MIRA Festival, Progress Bar, DEMO Festival, Draaimolen, Ruhrtriennale, Tate Lates, FIBER, SATURNALIA amongst others.