# Magic Closet & Dream Machine

Team: Katharina Wiedlack, Masha Godovannaya, Ruthia Jenrbekova, Tania Zabolotnaya, Masha Neufeld

digital image in greenish and white colors of a light barrel including the text ‘Magic Closet & Dream Machine

Magic Closet & Dream Machine


(Katharina Wiedlack, Masha Godovannaya, Ruthia Jenrbekova, Tania Zabolotnaya, Masha Neufeld, Video, Wien 2020, 10:33)

This is our attempt to re-think the academic presentation as a polyphonic dialogue through artistic forms of video and performance. We present our art-research project “The Magic Closet and the Dream Machine” about post-sovjet Queerness, ways of archiving, and the Art of Resistance. […] Today we are taking the risk of presenting a method that has not yet been proven to be reliable. However, as cultural workers involved in emancipatory queer politics, shouldn’t we sometimes queer the strict forms of academic labour, tinting them with a touch of play?


Our project challenges the politics of LGBTIQ+ visibility and the visibility paradigm, and their promises. Rather than holding on to the idea that visibility needs to be gained at all costs, and instead of believing in its promise of recognition, a livable life, and happiness, we make an argument for opacity. To create opacity, as a basis for queer relationality, bonding and collective dreaming, we developed the original art-based methodology called “The Dream Machine” (DM). The original DM, invented by Brion Gysin, is a Do-It-Yourself stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli and consists of a rotating cylinder with specifically shaped cut-outs and a light source (usually a light bulb) inside. By building this device and developing a collaborative protocol, we initiate a creative process that contains sequences of free association, writing, text cut-ups, text arrangements, taking photographs and/or filming. The results of this creative process will reflect queer experiences, yet not expose them.

We used the DM in several workshops throughout Central Europe, Western Russia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan throughout the years 2020 and 2021.

Here are some of our impressions:

T: “We organized three Dream Machine sessions, the participants were pretty skeptical in the beginning about sitting quietly looking at something with eyes closed while listening to ambient music. But in the end, they were quite excited: many shared images that came to them in the process and confirmed that it was an experience that was very different from all the others that they had in their lives. Some remembered a similar feeling they had in their childhood (like after pressing against their eyeballs with their fingers or swirling for five minutes in a row). In the end a couple of participants really wanted to have the instructions for building a Dream Machine at home to use it for their artistic or meditative practices, and one of the participants took the Dream Machine from the workshop home in the excitement of sharing its magic with her partner and friends.”

K: “Building and using the Dream Machine together made the queer solidarity between people tangible for me. People came to discuss, learn about, create queer art/artefacts – but they ended up collaboratively getting into a space where it wasn’t about knowledge, ability, competition, individual artistic brilliance etc. anymore, but about completing simple tasks together and being in the moment with each other, enjoying each other’s company.”

M: “The Dream Machine is an experimental kinetic lab that allows participants to daydream in the historical moments of darkness, find grounds in times of colossal change, and feel each other's presence when despair crawls in. It transforms the place of strangeness and hostility into a glowing warm space of togetherness and commonality. Building the machine, experiencing it with one’s closed eyes, free-writing impressions after, engaging with the produced text through different bodily, sound, and image-making games, reading the words, phrases, tags to each other, and later covering the machines with them (while continuously talking, joking, laughing with each other all the time) – all these practices bind people together into a fugitive queer community that walks a path towards an imaginary queer horizon guided by memories, affects, and feelings.
The Dream Machine is a process that unites – even momentarily – queer strangers and allows them to sense one another in the transformed space, through times and without boundaries or restrictions. It’s just one more way to think of how we can be together when solidarity is under the threat, how and in which ways we, other-than-western queers, can support one another when our hopes seemed to be crashed, and how to find grounds and aspirations to go on with our queer loving, living, building a better world, and experiencing it. It's just one more way to remind us about the presence of the glowing warmth of queer utopia in our lives.”

R: “Interaction with the DM creates a safe space of its own kind beyond the everyday, stirring up curiosity and stimulating imagination. The lighting machine produces a specific environment that suggests peaceful reflections and free associative thinking without any pre-given topic. In this sense, DM is a methodology that aims at turning all participant into co-researchers, giving them the power to set their own agenda and, in fact, make their own research. An interaction with the experimental stroboscopic device is already a study of some sort. So my proposition to come up with a small research of their own — with any subject, concept and outcome — was enthusiastically met by participants.
It made sense somehow: if my intention was to study them, why don’t they just ‘return the gaze’ and become researchers themselves? It could also be my personal influence: my approach is ‘inter-medial,’ meaning that I’m more interested in how particular mediums are intertwined, cross-translated and mixed. Such an approach seemed fitting the idea of DM workshops being open to all forms of expression.
The new move towards ‘research,’ while supplementing an additional meaning to the work done at the workshop, left the original idea of artifacts and traces intact: research results can (and are supposed to) be nothing else but artifacts and traces. Needless to say that ‘research’ here is understood in the widest sense of any creative activity focusing on a particular topic.”