When some people lay their head down to rest, they fall into a dense, uninterrupted slumber. No dreams are remembered, be they joyous or terrifying, and the sleeper wakes as a blank slate ready to start the day. Photographer Michael Woods is not one of those people.
“I’ve always had incredibly vivid dreams that I’ve been able to take part in … they’re quite intense,” says Woods, whose recurring lucid dreams include a superhero fantasy in which he flies around an unknown coastal city, saving it from tidal waves, aliens and various doomsday scenarios.
To articulate his experiences, Woods is staging Dream, an exhibition of 21 large-scale photographic prints at the Meat Market Stables in North Melbourne.
“I wanted to create a dream world to show how crazy some people’s dreams can be, how fun it can be going to sleep, but also how frightening and real and intense some dreams can be as well,” Woods says.
Different installations and environments have been set up across the exhibition’s three rooms to transport the viewer to Woods’s dream world. In the main gallery, a giant glowing crucifix dominates, and a pink, neon “Dreams” sign is locked up in a prison cell. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the environments around them as well as view the photographs.
“When you’re having a lucid dreaming experience, there are always different dreams overlapping,” says Woods. “So when you walk through the exhibition there are … different dreams playing with one another.”
One image depicts a demented clown, another featuring a deranged Rapunzel stems from a dream Woods had – after watching the Disney film Tangled– in which he imagined what would happen to the young woman were she left stranded in her tower without a saviour.
But the scenarios in the photographs also refer to daydreams, be they ambitions or creative endeavours. Year 45 In Simulation is a comment on how the grind of work life can stifle the creativity required to make your personal goals a reality. The humorous image features a frazzled worker and his looming boss.
“If you’re working in a job for ‘the man’ and solving his dreams, you can feel like you’re sacrificing your own [dreams],” says Woods. “It’s about working through achieving your own dreams.”
While Woods has a career as a commercial, events and editorial photographer – Broadsheet is a client, as is Untitled Group, the event promoters responsible for Pitch Music and Arts Festival and Ability Fest – Dream was devised as a vehicle to merge his commercial experience with his artistic side. The image Tied by Nature was inspired by one of Woods’s own dreams, in which he found himself on the floor of a jungle as vines wrapped tighter and tighter around his body.
“Mother Nature was angry and there was nothing I could do to stop it,” he says of the dream. “Sometimes it feels like the harder we pull against Mother Nature the tighter it gets for us.”
Dream runs from August 30 to September 4 at the Meat Market Stables, 2 Wreckyn Street, North Melbourne. More information here.