The Dream-Logic of New Media


Session Title:

  • Digital Reality and the Perception of Self

Presentation Title:

  • The Dream-Logic of New Media




  • In recent years there has been much interest in the structures of new media artworks and the creative use of databases. Typically, the central argument of this investigation is this: as technology and media change it is the human body that frame these changes, as they extend and interface the human sensorium. This paper will propose, not a counter argument, but an augmented condition: that it is not the body that has framed these changes but consciousness. It was Deleuze who identified that the trauma of World War II led to a profound change in cinema – from a classical movement-image to an “irrational” time-image that reflected an increasing subjective sense of the world. Within the time-image he identified an onirosign, a dream-image, which is characterised by: ‘visual and sound situations which have lost their motor extension,’ which are ‘cut off from memory-based recognition’ and are ‘an unstable set of floating memories, images of a past which move past at dizzying speed as if achieving a profound freedom’. This paper will outline an argument for dreams, onirosigns, as a theoretical structure for new media artworks. This paper will also discuss how new media art was foreshadowed by 20th century experimental cinema explorations, including Un Chien Andalou and Meshes of the Afternoon, which used ‘irrational’ and non-linear strategies. These films rejected the investigation of space and instead explored internal spaces through myth, ritual and dream-like logic. This can also be seen in James Joyce’s literary work Finnegan’s Wake, which employed a kind of dream language, involving the dissolution of the boundaries of the subject. These artists’ methods did not fully utilise non-linear strategies but pre-empted some of the qualities of interactive art. In recent years this structure can also be seen in the film Inception, which depicts a dreamworld created through the use of imaginary feedback loops. Like Inception, the new media artist is the architect of an imaginary world, which the observer or user creatively explores.