Dream Ritual ‘explores the hazy chasm between waking and sleeping’ – review

Words by Stella Rousham. Dream Ritual performed at The Coronet, Notting Hill 03/07/19

Dream Ritual operates in many liminal spaces; the hazy chasm between waking and sleeping, the conscious and subconscious, virtual and physical, art and dance. Exploring the Korean custom of buying and selling dreams, this multi-media piece is the latest work by London-based Korean visual artist, Bongsu Park in collaboration with dancer and choreographer, Jinyeob Cha.

Lurking in the iridescent shimmer of silky curtains, a lone performer (Cha) scurries, weaves and slides across the stage. A low blue light casts shadowy forms on her delicate translucent trousers and shirt. Partly concealed by a silk screen, Cha is lost in projections of her face and footage of her twirling and running body. It is at once disorientating and brilliant, capturing the ethereal nature of dreams.

Cha and Park expertly weave unsettling moments with pockets of beauty. Park and Cha create a kind of kaleidoscope. Cha’s physical motion on stage, such as coiling and unfurling her arms, is mirrored and refracted around her through projections.

As Cha grows bolder travelling across the stage, the projections shift to rolling text; first random letters then quotes from accounts of memorable dreams. These testimonials give the piece a dose of nostalgia and tenderness, ranging from bizarre childhood dreams to much more profound dreams of loss and regret. The excerpt from the ancient chronicle of Korean history, Samguk Sagi, is moving and has the potential to explore themes of conception, birth and life. However, the narrative thread dissolves soon after the story is told.

The expression and link between dreams and the virtual/digital world is transportive, reinforced by haihm’s synth/electronic musical score. The letters and characters trickling on stage via projection are reminiscent of computer code, drawing a parallel between digital code and the connections in our subconscious.

The movement was strikingly simple and eloquently performed, understated but refined and precise — not entirely dissimilar to Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker in her repetitive, ritualistic gestures and geometry. Cha glides seamlessly between a soft texture and more robotic dynamics when repeating straightforward moves such as leg swings, arm coils and turns. The most striking moments were the simplest, such as Cha standing under a pool of golden light.

Akin to the transient quality of dreams, Cha and Park skilfully play with our sense of time and pace, as projections of a sprinting figure counterpoint the methodical, repetitive motions of Cha. Yet at times the attempt to draw on different types of media overloaded the senses.

One can really see an essence of Park’s previous works — Lethe, Internal Library and Cube in the stage show (all of which were shown as a video installation downstairs). The simplicity of these short films made them at times more impactful than the show itself, with each one delving into one idea and main media.

Watching the videos prior to the stage show represented the development of dreams themselves. Each video seemed to embody an idea or thought that fed into the performance, like the many small subconscious thoughts one has throughout the day which culminates to form a dream. The evening had an atmosphere of honesty and openness, as Cha and Park welcome the audience to share and delve into the dreams of others.

Dream Ritual is playing until 6th July 2019. Images by Quan Van Truong.