I do not remember the majority of my dreams. I am told that I often erupt from the fugue state of sleep in panic, screaming, and moaning. The times that I do remember my dreams, something awful is occurring in them. They seem to be hinged on the anxiety associated with flight or fight responses. They are never neutral. They are uncanny at best and hardly pleasant. It has been this way since I was very young.
I used to be jealous of people who could remember their dreams. As I grew older, that was less the case. Instead, I found myself wishing that I could document my dreams to use as disturbing fodder for writing. They are very hard fragments to parse out and rarely can I remember the waking dream for longer than an hour. I do not write anything down. I have an adversarial position that dictates that if I cannot remember the dream, its impact must have retired to the jelly of my subconscious for a reason. It is unfortunate that I cannot share these dreams, but how do we share such an experience to others with the weight of which they require interpretation? I am positive that there is an analogy inside this observation to photography and the sharing of an experience in visual form, but as with the exercise of writing down my malformed dreams, I cannot quite adequately describe the correlation or metaphor, but it exists.
The dreams I do remember are often hazy at best. They exist in a psychological fog when I wake with them. There may be details, but they are often cast in a very surreal light if there is any light at all. The light is milky. Sometimes the light is in monochrome, but mostly it is yellow and golden as if to suggest something declarative and of value. This same light informs many of the photographs that I take in my awake life. The images that are monochrome are different. They are nocturnal or crepuscular at best. They add terror to the image that I wake with. In these dreams one thing is significant. As if in a cinematic flashback, the images from my dreams in black and white feel truncated. They are short bursts of action. Rarely are they calm and often I am not alone. Many times, the “people” who accompany me in these dreams are people that I have never met and yet, they display an affinity to me. They recognize me in the familiar.
Sometimes I can hear their voices long after their image blurs and fades from the focus of my mental picture of the dream. This audio is often combined with a hum or something similar to the sound of a tide. The same way that the world sounds when you are in the bath and let your ears dip below the waterline. You can hear people, televisions, cars from outside the bath door without clarity. They are cast in molasses. These sounds are difficult to recognize in this and the source of their proximity is immeasurably hard to calculate. When back above the waterline, the water having rolled out the ears and down the side of the neck warm and uncomfortable, the sounds all but disappear. The dream ends with the proverbial whimper and not the bang.
Kosuke Okahara’s blue affair (the backyard, 2020) is a photobook and a film. Both forms are interchangeable and yet both forms are independent. For the purposes outlined here, I am going to be examining Kosuke’s book and its forays into the fugue-like dream state that it represents. Throughout the book, the overwhelming feeling of being submerged is presented between the text and the images. A number of images are made of underwater swells of fish which add to the images of the night beach that Kosuke has also photographed. These elements, as in the film help to set the dream-like quality of the book as they appear early on. They invoke an environment that is neither here nor there. Nothing feels fixed or finite as in a dream.
These images and the rest of the images in the book are aided by a number of text fragments and arrangments that feel as though they are written by the photographer in the book or the protagonist in the film. They are lucid and describe the atmosphere of the book well. In some instances when we are given access to specific scenarios and people dealing with the themes of sex, labor, and prostitution. The stories within feel plausible, and yet we cannot completely subscribe to the words and what we see in the picture, nor can we be sure if the text or the image came first which presents a very interesting read to the biographic text in the book. Effectually, we are left to drift in the sea of images and text, to look for something concrete to hold onto (meaning), and yet this is denied at every attempt suggesting the only correct way to deal with the “narrative” is to let go and let the wash of images and psychologically-driven text carry us away.
The images and people in blue affair are both simulated and real to the audience and narrator if we believe this pov to be Kosuke himself. The artist bears witness to a number of seedy situations from cockfights and sexual encounters. We believe the narration due to the words on the page more than the images perhaps and yet the images in their often abstract and shrouded feel carry the text further in their diffused portrayal of the subjects mentioned in the text. The result is an incredibly successful description of a dream state, a lucid encounter with plausible events and situations that the artist wishes to share. I highly recommend the book. It is tight in edit and sequence and offers something ephemeral in its offering. Nothing feels real and yet everything feels permitted. Highly Recommended.
(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Kosuke Okahara.)