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Oliver, E., Whitehall, J., 2022.

The Past Dreams the Future Present': Dream as Political Visual Historiography in the work of Artist and Film Maker Derek Jarman (Aug 22) IDEA Journal: Interdisciplinary Discourses, Education and Analysis

Output Type:Journal article
Publication:IDEA - Interdisciplinary Discourses, Education and Analysis
Publisher:London Centre for Interdisciplinary research
Pagination:pp. 72-88

Title: 'The Future Dreams the Past Present"
Dream as Political Visual Historiography in the work of Artist and Film Maker Derek Jarman
Key words: Dream, Political, Resistant, Re-imagining, Psychoanalysis

Working across the disciplines of painting, film, theatre and gardening a recurring concern of Derek Jarman's work is temporality. This concern initiates a unique visual historiography positioning remembering as a creative and resistant activity. A key methodology in this historiography is the act of dreaming, which functions variously across Jarman's practice, but central to this paper is its role in enabling a re-encounter with the past that disrupts and reconfigures history. Drawing on Renaissance models of the dream as prophecy and wish fulfilment, seen in the 'The Last of England' where entry to the film is via Jarman sleeping, to 'Jubilee' where a juxtaposition of images allows the past to intrude and have dialogue with the present, we are encouraged to see, as occultist John Dee states in the film's opening sequence how, " the past dreams the future present".
The use of dream therefore in Jarman's work, rather than suggesting a turn away from the political, into escapist reverie instead points to something more in line with psychoanalytic understandings of fantasy with the power to disrupt the formation of a dominant realpolitik, not by being its opposite, but being that of which it is constituted.
Pursuing the dream as political this paper will focus on films 'The Last of England', 1987,'The Tempest ', 1979 and 'Jubilee' 1978. Applying the psychoanalytical writings of Freud and Jung on dreams and the writings of Walter Benjamin and Mark Fisher around capital realism we will consider the ways that Jarman's visual aesthetics of juxtaposition, ambiguity and anachronism, engage the viewer to confront an ostensible realism with the power to disrupt the ideological construction of accepted histories. In this, we argue, are present the tools for change, resonant not only with the moment of making, but also with a 'future dream' of Jarman now.

Dr Elisa Oliver
Dr Jonathan Whitehall