Thursday 16 February 2012
A colleague once told me that I was addicted; addicted to words. I was not so happy to hear their diagnosis but grew to appreciate that not everyone can be a bibliomaniac that reads dictionaries for relaxation.
One such 'big word' is hypnagogic. Chances are you haven't used that word in conversation today.
Maybe if you were at my home, you might say it or read it or even hear it. As a word it takes me immediately to near Dr Freud's couch. You know the one, covered with the tribal rug made by the nomadic Arab Khamsah circa 1875. Freud took his cherished rug to London with him and you see it lying on his patient's couch in the consulting room of the house that is now his museum. In that room he would write and talk about 'hynagogic' as being the stuff of waking dreams.
You would never have heard Dr Freud utter hypnagogic in English, he would have said it in German. The meaning of the word intrigues me: an image that seems like one is seeing something on the cusp of an hallucination. Involuntary, persuasive, irreal.
Emil McAvoy made me think again of this word when he told me he was interested in photographing dreams.
Who isn't into photographing dreams today? Ryan McGinley is, Ryan Trecartin is, Ryan Gosling is. Even Ryan Reynolds is, when he acts as if he is living in a coffin.
There are many others who are interested in cusping dreams and their names are not Ryan. Take James Franco channelling Hart Crane or Alan Ginsberg or James Dean. Is James going to play Gore Vidal as an hypnagogic incarnation? If not Gore, then maybe Joe Orton with a Brooklyn accent? That would be hypostatic.
These photo-portraits are of one of the 19th century's great creators of self-induced dreams were commissioned by the sitter from Pierre-Louis Pierson. They are part of a large sequence entitled Scherzo di Follia (Game of Madness) and were made between 1863 and 1866.
They show Virginia Oldoni, Countess of Castiglione (1837-1899). More about this unforgettable musette later...