Dream Machine Archive:
Rendering Mexican Immigrant Women’s Dreams
Through the use of print, sculpture, video and sound, my thesis installation, films and album create a stream of video and sound consciousness by listening or watching the dreams of Mexican immigrant women surveyed through a year-long dream hotline (888)573-2186. I question: Can the rendering of Mexican immigrant women’s dreams through a media landscape give insight into the complexity of identity and land? In this project, I have remixed audio recordings of Mexican women immigrants (including myself) reciting their dreams with Mexican commercial logos, home footage and imagined soundscapes. The thesis artworks embody a spirit and aesthetic of rasquache and the resulting immersive video rasquache diary explores how our place of origin is stamped into our memories and present identity. The research is constructive, rendering many portraits of psyches from callers far away from home, and shows how media hastily pasted together can give us the texture of a memory or dream.
Along with the use of radio, sound, video and sculpture installations, I used the images of fruit as a way to understand immigration’s intertwined complexity in creating personal identity. Fruit, like people, must pass specific inspections and rules to be admitted into the US. Both are subject to labeling systems that have a complex hierarchy based on origin. Unlike fruit, humans can assimilate, thereby shifting their perspective, nearly erasing a memory that can only be visited in a dream. Inspired by the term Pocha, meaning rotting fruit but used as a slight towards assimilated Mexican Immigrants/ Citizens, I created a visual language for internal experiences of assimilation and immigration. The audio, video and print works simultaneously explore dreams and identity as landscapes through media as a psychodynamic tool. This written thesis archives dreams from the project as well as maps out the methodology and process of Dream Machine Archive through written text, poetry and a train ride outline.
I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement from my thesis committee advisors Phoebe Gloeckner, Heidi Kumao, Anthony Mora and Colin Gunckel. Their commitment to improving this project allowed me to confidently expand and understand these dreams and ideas. I’d also like to thank Y. David Chung, Director of the MFA program for his enthusiasm and encouragement. A big thank you to Jennifer Metsker for supporting the written part of this thesis. I’d also like to thank my sound collaborators Henna Chou, Jeannelle Ramirez, Lizette Ortiz and Sean Smith for their support in expanding this thesis to audio. Thank you to Jungian Analyst Angela Pessinis for her support in this research. I’d also like the University of Michigan for its generous support in this thesis and album.
Lastly, thank you to Socorro, Camila, Rey, Kevin, Josue, Cynthia, Gloria and all the anonymous callers who shared their dreams.
Dream Machine Archive: Rendering Mexican Immigrant Women’s Dreams
A Train ride is a short film
Introduction to Research
All Aboard: Late fathers in dreams
Death and Dreams
Identity in the border
Ann Arbor station: Glitch a rasquache sensibility
What frames media?
A shadow is everything you are not
Chicago Union Station: Dream of Emma and Tony
Media as psychotherapy
Home footage in dreams
Albuquerque Union Station: Dream Hotline
Making a call for dreams
Los Angeles Union Station: Pocha without seed
What is Pocha?
DHS Fruit Protocols
San Diego Union Station: Border blasters
A dream, it’s a seed
A train ride is a short film
Dream you’re in the observation deck of a train, watching the landscape change slowly, fading into your own memories and dreams while the tracks hum into the railroad of your psyche. An AM radio station from across the border tunes in and out of soundscapes in your cabinet. This train ride is a theater, running through your conscious and subconscious landscapes. Like a 35mm film, the train tracks through miles of memories running through the early desert and coast. You’re in a perpetual dream state. A space in between, like the Rio Grande River.
My interest in working with immigrant women comes from my own experience as a (former) immigrant woman and the bicultural, bilingual aspects of an immigrant's personal and inner world in dreams. My work asks how our place of origin affects our shifting identities and dreams, through colorful and experimental print and video installation portraits and also how immigrants are a complex and diverse group even if all stem from the same country. Using a methodology of media democracy, the dreams use rasquache video aesthetics to visualize a bicultural dream sensibility. How can identity be tied to what we dream about ? Like a frontera radio station, my research emerges from the intersection of the psychological and the personal, creating a meeting point between the United States and Mexico inside the psyche.
The following chapters explore the layering of media, culture and artworks in the dream archive. The culmination of this project is a radio installation, video installation, film, album and prints that explore bilingual audio and video aesthetics through dreams as narratives and text using dreams from the dream hotline and my own dream journal. The work together is titled Dream Machine Archive along with having extended exhibitions of unique artworks created through the research. The chapters are labeled as Amtrak stations, following the route the Southwest Chief takes from a train ride across the United States. In All Aboard: Late Fathers in Dreams I outline why Jungian dream analysis was used as a format to collect dreams and the connection between dreams, spirituality and history. How orgin is a place to ponder and inform identity. Ann Arbor Station: Glitch as a Rasquache sensibility outlines the aesthetic research methods used and the beginning of combining television live feeds and self reflection through installation. Chicago Union Station: Dream of Emma and Tony reflects on delving into my own dreamscapes and using a dream as an inspiration for a cross country trip. Albuquerque Union Station: Dream Hotline outlines the methodology of the dream hotline and the culminated and synthesized results of gathering immigrant women’s dreams. Los Angeles Station: Pocha without seed is a chapter on fruits as symbols of assimilation and DHS produce protocols. This chapter also outlines a shift from paper and video as separate mediums. San Diego Union Station: Border Blasters speaks on the history of border radio and the poetic possibilities of dreams as broadcasts. A dream is a seed concludes the study with reflections on identity, fruit and mediascapes.
All Aboard: Late Fathers in Dreams
The Aztecs' father God known as Huitzilopochtli, the God of Sun and War, had the power to be the maker of dreams. In the origin story of Mexico, he appeared in dreams to Mexica priests as they traveled through the central valley of present day Mexico and gave them a dream vision of the ancient prophecy to settle where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus. Mexico City was then built on the unforgiving swamp land of Lake Texcoco and a dream.
When I started this research, I didn’t know how spiritually connected people felt to dreams. My own experience of dreams is a hazy beginning of a day, like a tumble dry setting in a dryer of emotions. I got accustomed to asking people about their dreams, in line at the grocery store or on the way to the airport. Since I was new to Michigan, it also was a great way to meet more Spanish speakers and possible immigrants I could survey. Oftentimes, people scoffed at the idea or shared something that I wasn’t sure whether or not was made up. While waiting in line at a taqueria around town, I locked eyes with a cook and asked if she could share a dream with me. Her response, in Spanish, was skeptical at first. “Y tu quien eres?” It was followed by a soft voiced dream of her father visiting her. I tried to clarify if it was a memory. She insisted it was him, in his younger and golden years which she had not witnessed. His spirit could manifest through any period of his life and visit her, she claimed. In her dreams she is also still in Guatemala and a child. She found great comfort in his visits, she mentioned when she was very stressed he’s there for her. I smiled and didn’t give it any real thought.
Two months after this conversation, my step-father passed away in a manner only further complicated by the pandemic–a long complicated post-death. In the midst of grief, I thought about that conversation often. Especially after a phone call I had with my mother detailing the psychic abilities of a woman who worked at a telephone resale shop. She had sworn she had received a text message from my step father from beyond the grave. The distress of loss and separation made me wonder how we seek to stay connected to those we love and are elsewhere. Could we have this experience not only about others but ourselves and places we lived? I went back to the taqueria, to learn more about the dead visiting you in dreams but just as mysteriously as she appeared the death dreamer was gone.
This mystery began my research in dreams as modes of communication and reflection of identity. The dreams I am referring to are the series of images, memories and experiences one has mostly during the REM cycle of sleeping. Although my focus was on these dreams, the one exception is in the transcription of Gloria (who shared her waking dream or a life aspiration). Though the word “dream” is used for different purposes–imagery seen sleeping or imagined in waking life aspirations–I discovered through my research that both of these definitions are closer to one another then I would have thought, and I decided not to place my own definition on dreams. When speaking on dreams and conjuring Jung, I was not seeking to make any assumptions on dream archetypes either. My research in dreams isn’t specific to the symbols in the dream of immigrant women, but the research in aesthetics within the dream and memory as a way to engage with the self in identity. That is to say, I find the discussion of a memory/fantasy (and the architecture and aesthetics in the dream) much more interesting than trying to create quantitative data from symbols.
Dreams don’t migrate to your consciousness in a vacuum. Dreams are described as originating from vague expressions. A natural phenomenon, like migration. In The Way of the Dream, Marie-Louise Von Franz writes: “Psychologically we don’t know where we come from, and we don’t know where we are going. We are part of that cosmic mystery which is the existence of nature and of all things.” A devoted Jungian, Von Franz was a patient and understudy of Jung before becoming a psychoanalyst herself. Though psychoanalysis has had its dubious endeavors through Freud (and some of Jung) making blanket statements of dream interpretation and symbols, the practice of deep listening to someone’s dreams is not unique to psychoanalysis but has been expanded in documentation (and technique) thanks to it. I found Jung’s openness to mystery and spirituality something that would be accessible to many immigrants. I had to ask myself, When interviewing people, how would I be able to interpret dream data of God or a ghost?
Jungian psychoanalysis allows room for a lack of explanation to some things in dreams, though still interested in symbolism and archetypes. Jung writes:”By psyche I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious.” Jung maintained that the psyche is a self-regulating system (like the body). The psyche strives to maintain a balance between opposing qualities while at the same time actively seeking its own development, or as he called it, individuation. Jung writes that one must share a dream [with a psychoanalyst] in order to better understand our personal worries and emotions. He states, Oftentimes when we try to psychoanalyze ourselves we grow bored and give into our neurosis. The externalization of a dream can also help us gauge reality; for example, perhaps this dream is only really understood as a nightmare until a witness reacts to our story.
When we dream, we can become younger or past selves and this timescape within our dreams interests me. How could one dream of being a child? Of a parent in younger years? Time becomes a big factor in what is a oneiric experience. Unlike when we are awake, time is warped in dreams, like a timelapse video. In waking life, we can never go back and in dreams we not only relive a memory but change things. When recalling a dream, so much happens during our sleep that it amazes us to recall the saga. Like history, when we sleep and dream we only recall fragments and in between there is just darkness. That is to say, history lacks perspectives and archives on life especially outside the ruling power leaving gaps of darkness like the mysterious time between dreams. Moreover history and dreams are lost because memory is muddled. Texas is a prime example of how history can be rewritten by those in power and create even more darkness with the statewide ban on critical race theory. The Spanish conquest included burying pyramids and placing churches above along with forcing indegnous people to write on tissue paper so that the culture eventually would fade out. These are just a few examples.
In my own personal journey of understanding my identity, it has more rapidly developed being away from the border for the first time. It wasn’t until I took a 23 and Me DNA test that I realized I was very Texas/ Tamaulipas. When I ask my family about my 40.5% indegenous heritage, they shrug and fixate on my European heritage, a competing 37.9%. I never even thought about my DNA but in a way it’s like my personal product sticker. Growing up, in Matamoros and Brownsville, everyone mentioned their European traits, light skin, thin nose and any eye color but brown. I was tormented by an uncle who called me “pepper nose” a term I later learned was also used in Filipino communities to point out “ethnic” traits. It’s strange to think your body should reflect traits only seen on TV. So once I was confronted with my Naturalization Ceremony in 2019, through a document signed by Donald Trump congratulating me on my citizenship, I realized I was no longer an immigrant on paper. I had chosen and been chosen to be in the United States now, so how could I feel the discomfort of being from somewhere else? I realized I had to confront the darkness, like in history and in dreams, of identity.
Coming to the Midwest taught me my border roots are inescapable, they are present even in my DNA! I’m a specimen who is the result of many years of borders crossing the landscape, large migratory patterns and forgotten history. While reading A World Not to Come by Raul Coronado, he discusses heavily the Nuevo Santander (New Santander) region which is now present day Texas and Tamaulipas. Nuevo Santander was a region of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, covering the modern Mexican state of Tamaulipas and extending into modern-day southern Texas in the United States from 1747 to 1821. When I mentioned this to my mother she reminded me our family was proudly part of that settlement, tracing our family back to Southern Texas since 1746. Whether we were Spanish or Indegenous is fuzzy. Much like the discussion in Coronado’s book, our whole family lacks understanding of themselves in context of land and history since we are now spread between two countries. In his text, Coronado provides a different thinking strategy to discuss the history of modernity, one rooted in the forgotten archives of Texas. He stresses the importance of print and communication to spread thoughts of revolution and focuses on concepts that evaluate the conflicting visions of an American imaginary along with the background knowledge rooted from the print archives. He also incorporates critical thinking vocabulary when he defines and differentiates the meaning of certain language usage in words like "Latino," "Hispanic," and "Spanish-American."
In contemporary discussions, the term Latinx is thrown around to be an all- encompassing representation of an experience which causes reactionary discussions by rejecting the terms. The X in contemporary identity represents queer and non-binary people within the realm of Latinindad. Francisco Galarte states in Brown Trans Figurations Rethinking Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Chicanx/Latinx Studies that X is not an inclusion of both genders but the formation of an identity within a cultural content outside the rigid binary, which seems to ultimately challenge our institutional and social contemporary formats of engagement with one another. Yet being a community organizer for Latino and Latinx online streams and art happenings, I knew that the broad stroke of Latinidad also allows me to avoid the questions of my relationship with immigration. Through this decision my point was to paint an understanding of immigrants as individual people not a homogeneous identity. Unlike dreams, figuring all this out in waking present time was not surreal but boring and at times embarrassing! I was not particularly excited about sharing some aspects of dreams or my perceived self. Monitoring all the things your mind wanders off to and tying that to reality and perception as autotheory is very new.
Being too embarrassed to render my own dreams, I created an installation titled Dream 9. Based off a dream from Remedios Varo’s dream journal as inspiration, the installation morphed into a similar nightmare I had. This dream was written years after her arrival to Mexico and it allowed me to explore this reality of time and identity through interpreting Spanish surrealist painter Remedios Varo’s dream through an audio installation where the protagonist’s voice becomes younger throughout the dream and is in horror to find a mysterious noise following her. This dream allowed me to explore the concept of time in dreams.
Remedios Varo Journal
I dreamed I was asleep in my bedroom and a loud noise woke me up. The noise came from upstairs, from the studio and it was as if somebody were dragging an armchair. I thought that this meant someone was trying to get in from the terrace and was pushing the armchair that was against the door. I was alarmed and it seemed wise to let whoever it was know that I was awake, but to do so without his realizing I knew it was him, so that he could leave before anything worse happened. I got up from my bedroom door and called upstairs to my cat, “What’s all that noise, Gordi?” I took another step forward and at that moment I sensed with frightful horror something behind me that instead was coming out of myself and at the same time, I realized it wasn’t true ....”
The dream seems more like a night terror. Varo escaped Europe during World War II and arrived in Mexico in 1941 which remained her home til her death in 1963. The so called “dream” in her diary, was really a night terror of a sense of something coming out of you in terror. I reinterpreted the dream in synthesis with a recurring dream I had as a child when we first immigrated to the United States. In my dream, a terror arizes similar to when I would lose my mother at the super market. I run up and down the empty isles yelling for my mother, but the shelves only grow taller and taller. Dream 9 existed as a retelling of two night terrors through the forest of our mindscape.
Dream 9 alludes to exploring our dreams as forest as physical spaces that one might be scared of. In the installation, the room’s floor is covered in leaves, one approaches a floating window that plays memories behind floating curtains. I designed audio to sound like someone is walking through the leaves behind you, causing viewers to look around the empty dark space. The audio also includes the voice of someone running through a forest at night, slowly panicking and screaming for their mother, which voice trails off into a child crying. I recorded the sounds during walks in a natural preserve in Ann Arbor, oftentimes being left alone in the dark due to the early set of the sun in winter. Although at first this terrified me, I found this exercise to be an activity of psychological resilience through darkness. I meditated on Remedios Varo’s dream during these night forest walks, and it became less terrifying each night. I also thought a lot about the death dreamer (the one from the taqueria) and my night terrors when we first immigrated.
However, in Dream 9, I found myself limited by only focusing on Remedios Varo’s dreams and mine, how her lifetime was so long ago. Could her history resonate with mine? This would soon lead me to historical and telecommunication inquiry.
Ann Arbor Station: Glitch a Rasquache Sensibility
Through the inquiry of time and dreams, I eventually arrived at meditation on how media can be a method to engage my inner being. Most of my work had been non-narrative, just visual context, so creating a media psychodynamic tool was very new to me. I started to meditate on how we perceive media, especially during the 2020 pandemic. Being in graduate school during this time, most media work was seen through Zoom calls, and his interaction gave people the experience of the video work being a film, not just moving images on a large wall, because size was relative to the viewer's screen. This led me to the idea of video. Video is not a new addiction. Endless scrolling, binge watching and endless amounts of images fed to us through a series of lights. What if we just have our inner narrative be what is broadcasted and what we passively watch, could it be beneficial to our psyche? I found this to be something to work with rather than against, the path of least resistance.
First, there’s several ways to experience and think of media. Media exists as three forms: the material, the social and the aesthetic, all forms that can be experimented with and we limit them to replicate past ideologies even when we can reach further with the technology. Furthermore, it is the frame surrounding the video that also determines the expectation of form and prestige, such as video living in television, the internet, and installation to name a few forms. Raymond William’s “Total Flow” concept pre-dates TikTok and binge watching. He describes this mesmerizing experience that television’s endless imagery and commercial brings, like a stream of media, or perhaps even unconsciousness. I once met a woman who refused to watch television because she had been so scared from war broadcasts she strongly believed the imagery sunk into her psyche. This was at the time funny to me since I worked in television and thought it was nonsense. I later realized reading through my dream journals that I would dream things I saw on TV and that using audio-logos and commercials connected visual aesthetics of dreams in my work, meaning many people dream the media they consume.
During the George Floyd and BLM protests in 2020, I worked as a broadcast operator at Spectrum News in Austin, TX, right before moving to Michigan. When my usual shift covering weather reports was transferred to breaking news, the stress from managing endless feeds of unrest manifested into arm rashes I dealt with for the rest of the summer. This experience made me realize how powerful moving images can be. Though I myself had been an activist and protested, something about just bearing witness made it a fear inducing experience. I pondered how I could use the power of television and media as a psychodynamic tool. How could all forms of audio and visual media be misused for self reflection?. In this way, Media could become A digital mirror that shows our psyche reflection. In the installation A Shadow is What You Are Not (2020) I poke at this idea by allowing viewers to witness themselves through their shadow, never facing forward. This is a bit of an ode to Rene Magritte’s Portrait of Edward James as well, a portrait of a man facing his back. The digital mirror was fed into a zoom live feed and could only be witnessed in real time. Yet something about the video being live feed didn’t give into the dreaminess I wanted to experience. It felt the same as a slow train ride, which becomes even more magical when you can look back and speed through time in your head. That is to say, I realized dreams had a strong connection to perception of time in both the material world and the psyche. Canadian experimental animator and video pioneer Norman McLaren reflects on the magic of experimental animation’s creative process and dream imagery,
“The sudden juxtaposition of two things, very different from each other as in a dream. [In a dream]The spirit is able to jump around with an extreme rapidity and in spite of the laws of logic.”
Within this audio visual cognitive experience of jump cutting from one unrelated memory to the next, the dream can be noted as the human race’s storytelling instinct, the first story to be told in the long history of storytelling. McLaren also alludes to time in dreams becoming faster and slower. Much like history, reflection of self proves to be something to ponder after the fact. Video can be seen as “the artform of late capitalism ” and it is a huge part of commerce and contemporary entertainment. I find experimental video films and shorts to be an arena of exploration of possibility for narratives and fantasies for ways of life outside our current systems. Especially for narratives of borderlands and identity as immigrants. Though these media forms have largely been experimented with and have some representations of immigrants and immigrant Mexican women, the framing given is that of a “other”. In order to live within a more complex society I suspect we must allow ourselves to discover new narratives both visually and in audio that incorporate time and language of the people being addressed in the film. By bypassing the middleman and creating an auto-documentation of our psyches, we can have a self portrait to mirror ourselves.
Many artists have explored the experimental possibilities of narratives and visuals in video but the artists working in experimental narratives, experimental visuals or both, on television, film and the internet, in the early 2000’s are especially relevant. John Kilduff’s experimental television broadcast Let’s Paint TV embodies the carefree and cool attitude of the Gen X era and the relaxed you can do it painting attitude from Bob Ross. Starting in 2002 Let’s Paint TV’s live segments consist of Kilduff painting while he runs on a treadmill; in addition, he sometimes takes calls from viewers, plays games, or makes blended drinks while being aired through the Los Angeles Public Access TV . The show’s purpose is to inspire anyone to paint, regardless of the madness of contemporary society, with Kilduff running and improvising on embracing failure as part of the creative process. The radical self compassion and humor that Kilduff embodies in his now internet show is an example of authenticity in art showcasing radical self and viewer compassion, which is a large process of understanding one's self and identity. Kilduff’s authentic positivity shines through endless prank calls from viewers and cult followers as he assures us that everybodys fails, nothing is perfect but never gives up. I found his resilience through visuals and performance to be connected to something relatable to the immigration experience which to me has been a perpetual treadmill of immigration paperwork, assimilating into culture and negotiation of identity. Kilduff’s experimental use of a television segment is also exceptional for both its visual and media aesthetic value.
On a studio visit with John Kilduff, AKA Mr. Let’s Paint, he showed me his garage studio which had duct taped green foam on the ceiling as a DIY green screen room. His attitude of using whatever he had reminded me of rasquache and perseverance. Rasquache is a term of Mesoamerican Nahuatl origin which initially had a negative connotation in Mexico as being an attitude that was lower class, impoverished, and having bad taste. This definition was later redefined by a Mexican and Chicano art movement, Rasquachismo, transforming social and economic instabilities into a style and a positive creative attitude. Often these artists in the Rasquachismo movement used the most basic, simplest, quickest, and crudest means necessary to create desired expressions, in essence, creating the most from the least. Rasquache has mostly been a painting, sculpture and aesthetics movement, not really focused on audio or video mediums. This could be due to the lack of resources for Chicano artists to engage with these mediums historically. Rasquachismo to me is an aesthetic, a way of working, and a lifestyle. It’s psychological grit brought on by the heaviness of place and identity. I’m inspired by Figure 9, my dad’s homemade phone charger crafter out of a battery, some wires and an Altoids can. This technological grit is what The Dream Machine Archive embodies.
While researching films or videos that could be rasquache-esque, I returned to Jim Mediola’s 1996 film Pretty Vacant, which I watched in 2015 during a screening in San Marcos, TX. Molly "La Molly" Vasquez, drummer for the all-girl band Aztlan-a-Go-Go races to finish her zine and avoid her Dad and the family's annual trip to visit the relatives in Mexico. The film follows a young Chicana in San Antonio as she works on her punk video zine about the Sex Pistols’ tour in the United States and their show in San Antonio in 1978.The film’s narrator, Molly, a young Mexican-American punk who is dreading her annual trip to Mexico in the summer with her family. She decides to escape this by avoiding her family and focusing on her zine practice of re-entrepating art through Chicana Feminist perspective. She is unable to escape the family trip and sulks the whole time but finds some Mexican rockeros to bond over punk music in Mexico. She makes peace with her fate and uses her new found sounds from Mexico to complete her zine. Molly’s perseverance to create her own identity, beyond her family’s home in Mexico but within the side of the border she resides in, always resonated with me. This is truly the only film I have ever seen and said “That’s me!” In this film, rasquache is the spirit not the aesthetic. It’s a sensibility to accept both media in English and Spanish as well as a sense of self that transcends location and time. Molly’s connection to the Sex Pistols concert in the late 70’s as a self identifying Chicana during the early 90’s was repeated in my high school years in 2010. How is it that we could have similar interests and experiences decades apart?
The 2003 indie film Tarnation by Jonathan Caouette also embraces a rasquache-esque sensibility of video editing aesthetics and a reframing of a personal narrative. Caouette’s auto-documentary film was created in the span of over 20 years using hundreds of hours of home Super 8 footage, VHS tapes, photographs and digitized media to tell his story and his relationships with his mentally ill mother. We can witness Caouette in grimey super 8 footage observing his own reflection as a child, trying to understand his surroundings, in his grandparents home in Houston during the 80’s. With a private view of Caoutte’s homelife tormented by his mother’s mental illness we explore his growing identity as a young gay man in the nightlife of Houston. His film, along with Pretty Vacant and Let’s Paint TV inspired me to render a rasquache video of my own dreams to explore my identity.
Chicago Union Station: Dream of Emma and Tony
September 25 2020
I Dreamt I was at my grandmother's house and wondering where she was. She comes home and my dad is making fun of her wheelchair tires because they are blue. She is animated and full of life, unlike her usual self. She tells me she’s wanted to leave my grandfather but they had been together so long it was impossible.
I’m on a train looking over the skyline of the construction of a college campus, it’s industrial like Chicago. I’m with two passengers I do not know but I chat with them front of the train is a kind of funny party guy named Tony Johns. We passed a research institution for genetics and this midwestern white lady said she studied there and she can't believe how much construction is happening; I look over the city skyline and admire the buildings, then it turns into the desert. I see our train go into a meadow.
I rendered Dream of Emma and Tony based on a dream I had on September 25 2020 during my first semester in graduate school. I couldn’t find a way to narrate the film so I recorded myself speaking through telephone to an old friend to not feel so awkward in front of the webcam I recorded it in. To start the film, I “chopped and screwed” a Rocio Durcal song with Televisa audio logos to get a dream going. I used my dream journal, which are mostly emails to Jungian psychoanalyst Angela Pessinis. Through the rendering of the dreams, I found digitize Hi-8 footage of myself as a child. The video I used was created to show our new American apartment to my grandmother back in Puebla, the grandmother mentioned in the dream. I found the dream to be quite embarrassing since it featured Tony Johns, an internet personality that I follow. He is a self-described 6’2 Italian Stallion from Utah, whose characteristics of a villain in a dream I could not have written as brilliantly as his online persona. The film was created after consulting a psychoanalyst about the dream, the narration tainted by the self reflection of therapy. The film isn’t just a translation or dictation of my dream but it involves some reflection of the characters within it, which made it more interesting because this resulted in me being self aware of some aspects and while some details are lost (which aids the film). For example, the viewer never learns my fear of my grandmother’s anguish over my grandfather, but rather it is alluded to through sound and animation of Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes. In this way, art allows me to confront something painful that only exists in me, a doubt and a story from a biological origin. Through this research, the oppression of women in Mexico is not detailed or confronted head on, but through these feelings of anguish and sorrow that have been passed down from generations.
The film was at first, part of a video installation of a dream framed by a train. Though I had never been on a long train ride, the dream brought up movement through land and time. But due to people viewing the video through zoom it was perceived as a film. I was encouraged to submit the film to the 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival by our program director Y. David Chung and my advisor Phoebe Gloeckner. The film was featured in the festival and even won “Best Michigan Filmmaker” I found it remarkable that people could relate to this dream, or perhaps not even the dream itself, but the aesthetics and editing of the dream.Also, the idea that I was able to dream of an experience I hadn’t had brought up possibilities about how dreams can present alternative views of self and our lived and perceived realities. I also wondered how much of my dreams also consisted of media, and how this medium could be used as a psychodynamic tool for others.
Albuquerque Union Station: Dream Hotline
Following the success of Dream of Emma and Tony, I decided to create a Dream Hotline, where people could call in to record their dreams. The work is grounded on finding unconventional ways of rendering unconventional narratives, using the dream narrative as an exploration of storytelling and self revelation through memories and personal experiences. Translating these dream narratives into video and sound stories allowed me to explore the opportunity of alternative representation and error as an opportunity to self analyze. I soon realized I wanted to survey other Mexican immigrant women’s dreams but found the pandemic to be a hurdle to meeting people. I found the best way to create a dream survey would be through creating a dream hotline for people to call in at their discretion. This practice became deeply personal in rendering a more complex inner life of women.
After consulting my psychoanalyst Angela Pessimis on the three questions to ask, the dream hotline was opened. I rendered a funny dream commercial that was blasted through social media platforms targeting Spanish speaking women in the Detroit-metro area. The advertisement and dream hotline prompt the following questions:
1.What language was the dream in?
2. In what country or location?
3. How old were you in the dream
2. In what country or location?
3. How old were you in the dream
My methodology became an audio lead video structure, sound first not post! Part of my process is a democracy of media and deleting preconceived expectations of video and sound . Dreams present a design methodology that focuses on time, perception and self, so how could I both create something individualist we could all understand? The dreams became playgrounds to tie in questions of identity, place and memory. Through speculative design methods, imagining the best thing possible for a recollection of a dream, I continue the artistic tradition of envisioning future selves through complex identities. The dream calls present an imaginative space of design to envision a different aspect of self coincided with the stark reality of immigration.
I opened the dream hotline in December of 2020. Through the hotline, I ended chatting online with many women about their dream experiences. A lot were hesitant to share, especially due to a belief I was some sort of psychic. I found it was best to have people reach the hotline, to have a machine intake the dream. Something about technology becoming a vessel for our personal narratives intrigued me. It reminded me of the text message my mother swore she saw from her late-husband. The gathered audio was then “remixed” into experimental sound tracks, video animations, and video sculptures as forms of further alienation from perceived present time and space. The following dreams from the hotline were selected to render in a film titled Four Immigrant Women Dream.
January 10 2021
I dreamt that the President of Mexico and passed away. So I dreamed about his funeral. I assume it wasn't in Mexico. And no, I don't remember speaking any language. Just his funeral. And it made me feel kind of sad because he passed away. Not that I am one of his followers, but it just made me feel sadness. Bye.
January 25 2021
Hi, Natalia, this is Camila from Chulita Vinyl Club. I had the weirdest dream last night because I could actually feel the feelings in my dream. So long story short, I took this tea that makes you like crazy last night and I forgot that I had an appointment to renew my passport this morning. So I was really worried that I would myself made appointments in the consulate. So I don't know, I had a bit of trouble getting to sleep because I was anxious of thinking about that. But eventually I did and it was very crazy because it was like a mixture of things. I was he same age I am right now 28 And it was very weird because the dream was Spanish and English. And I just remember that I was with my two friends from the PhD, Valerie Monse, because my class was just about to start. And then I ran into this guy whose name is Jacob. I guess it doesn't matter if I tell it. How's it going? Good. It's good. What are you up to? Just here with my girlfriend Christine. Like, I don't know any Christine. I don't know where I thought about that name. And I just remember I kept walking and I felt so sad but I felt like I really missed it. But I remember the feeling in my body. And then I woke up to 03:00 a.m. And I was still missing him and he was so real.A nd then I was like A mi no me importa este guey. I don't actually miss him.
Four Immigrant Women Dream was created based on the calls and emails I got through the Dream Hotline. The dream hotline received many calls from many dreamers. Four Immigrant Women Dream excludes calls I received from male callers or American Dreamers that called into the Hotline; these recordings are currently a curious collection of data I have collected while doing my research. I found myself questioning the ethics of collecting large amounts of data without having a personal connection to the lives of some of the calls. Therefore, Using the results from my initial research, I decided to focus on the women who have called in whom I already have a connection with and created an experimental documentary animation of their day and dream lift. The film uses various forms of animation.
The first dream is from my step mother Socorro, who has been in the United States for twenty odd years. She was naturalized through the pandemic, through a digital service. Her dream is a worry about the president of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador contracting covid and dying. Oddly enough, he did contract Covid-19 a couple weeks after the dream. Her sadness over his death reflects something deeper than a political tie, since she expresses no support of his political views and party. Perhaps this dream also tied into her own experience of citizenship as a newly naturalized American.
The following dream is from Camila in Austin, a fellow member and DJ of Chulita Vinyl Club. Her dream description starts with the worry of missing a passport appointment the next day and that sense of worrying sinking into the dream about an old lover. She describes her emotions of love and lost being so real it was difficult to understand when she woke up that it was all just a dream.
Four Immigrant Women Dream also includes a dream from a Korean Immigrant and former MFA student named Rey. Through this experiment, I was able to hone in on television aesthetics in bilingual languages as representations of merging consciousness. Not speaking Korean, I was pleased when Rey found her dream rendering to be representative of her inner experience.
The last dream that is rendered is a dream from an anonymous woman who worked at a taqueria in Ypsilanti. She described dreams as modes of connection to her late father. She believed her father’s ghost visited her. These sorts of dreams lead me to use Jung as a mode of collecting data because of his embrace of mystery and spirituality. But, based on Jung?, Data like this dream could be thrown out because of one’s own personal beliefs not matching up to the so called “archetypes” of life presented in Western culture.
Four Immigrant Women Dream is installed on a security monitor arm with a small CRT. The audio can be heard through a telephone, mimicking the experience of a one-sided phone call from a dream land beyond this realm. The intimacy of the video installation is in reference to the experience of hearing a dream from an old friend. This format was used for the thesis exhibition for the film Dream of Emma and Tony as well as the two installations of Four Immigrant Women Dream–one at the 60th Ann Arbor Film Festival and another at Centro Cultural Aztlan.
Posting advertisements across town for the dream hotline prompted me to notice laundry bags as staples of the immigrant community. These bags are often found as cheap suitcases to move personal belongings or laundry around town. Also known as “coconut bags” in Hawaii, the pattern oversize bags were similar to the patterns in electrical video synthesis I had been playing with. I decided to incorporate the bags as the frame for which my work sat in to serve as a vessel for what we carry in our psyche. At first I experimented with framing the video dream commercial and then a digital mirror that distorts your image. As part of my thesis show, I displayed three bags with different dreams and a digital mirror titled “Three Dreams”.' It displayed” Gloria On the Pacific Surfliner” and “Eva and I Dream”
Los Angeles Union Station: Pocha without Seed
July 8 2022
Mi falta de educación es la razón por cual deje que mi hija estudiara lo que quisiera. Incluso deje que mi hija estudiara budismo en la India. Mi mama me llamo gritando, pero la verdad fue que en mexico yo ni acabe la secundaria. Me fuy a Tijuana aprender a tejer.Y luego me case, y en 1973 me fui a Echo Park en Los Angeles, Y nunca regrese. Todo fue muy diferente pero igual. Ay mucha polución en Los Angeles ahora. Yo creo en los pensamientos positivos y que todo sucede por una razón. No hay coincidencias. Saben lo que dicen, Solo Dios y Los Estados Unidos La gente pensaba que estaba avergonzada de ser mexicana por no enseñarle español a mis hijos.Simplemente no quise que sonaran como yo, era la época de Vietnam. Mataban primero a los chicanos. Fue hace mucho tiempo, y lo lamento pero... fue para sobrevivir.
In 2021 decided to follow up on the first dream I rendered as a film (Dream of Emma and Tony) and took a train across the United States from Chicago to San Diego to conduct my research and survey more Mexican immigrants at the largest Mexico/US border crossing, Tijuana. The train ride took 3 days. I drank mint tea and watched the landscape the entire time. Sometimes we would stop for ten minutes in big union stations, passengers would scurry to smoke a cigarette or buy jewelry or snacks. Just like in the dream, the industrial farm towns outside Chicago became red burning dirt in the Southwest desert.
While aboard the Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles to San Diego during the summer, I met a 70 year old Mexican immigrant named Gloria who resided in Echo Park since the late 1970s. Gloria was on her way to see her daughter outside San Diego. We sat quietly on our windowless seats for the beginning of the ride. Since I had been on a three-hour train ride, I decided to get up and buy a soda. I drank the soda facing away from her and our seats since it required me to take off my mask around her. This action intrigued her and she started chatting me up once I sat down again. She found me to be cautious of her health, traveling on public transit through a pandemic and all and was delighted to learn I spoke Spanish. She invited me to drink my soda next to her and talk.
Originally from Tijuana, Gloria told me about her love of lace and sewing. She was born in a small town inland and left high school to work sewing in the border. She met her husband and they moved to Los Angeles in the 70’s. Gloria insisted on answering my dream questions with aspirational dreams. She told me about how she got to learn lace making in France and opened her own shop, and the bridezillas she dealt with. She has two children whom she is very proud of, one of whom she even encouraged to study Buddhism in India. A similar familiar anecdote, her mother called her angry; How can you allow your daughter to do nonsense! Gloria liked that I understood her frustrations. She confessed feeling guilt for having assimilated so well into the United States. She didn’t teach her kids Spanish and now they bring it up with frustration. Gloria looked worried behind her mask and asked me if I judged her for doing that. She stated how she couldn’t tell that I was Mexican when we got on the train together, but my accent in Spanish lets her know I am. During our conversation, she repeated the term “pocha” in reference to her children. How they blamed her for people calling them that since they didn’t know Spanish but were of Mexican descent.
Pocho (feminine: pocha) is slang in Spanish used in Mexico to refer to Mexican Americans and Mexican emigrants. It is often used pejoratively to describe a Mexican expatriate or a person of Mexican ancestry who lacks fluency or the ability to speak in Spanish and knowledge of Mexican culture.It derives from the Spanish word pocho, used to describe fruit that has become rotten or discolored.
The term can refer to the following:
A Mexican American or expat who speaks broken or no Spanish.
A Mexican American who speaks Anglicized Spanish, colloquially known as "Spanglish".
A Mexican that has emigrated from Mexico and settled or naturalized in another country.
A Mexican that travels, works, or lives outside of Mexico for an extended period of time. e.g. Mexican students studying abroad.
A Mexican that does not adhere to traditional Mexican culture, customs, and etiquette.
My brother has the nickname “Pancho el Pocho” because he’s the first born in our family in the United States. I've heard the term every summer when I would visit my family, and I would start to forget words and just say something in English. Sometimes when I would blend an English and Spanish word together into a noun like “troka” [truck + camioneta], it would make everyone call me “Pocha”. Discovering the original meaning of the word was rotten fruit made me wonder if this word was chosen as a term to reference assimilation. If a pocha is a spoiled fruit and I am a pocha, when did I become spoiled? How could I tell when I had stopped being Mexican and became ex-Mexican? Was it at my Naturalization ceremony? It must have been before that, perhaps it was when I stopped dreaming in Spanish? When did I even start to dream in English?
In the haze of wondering if I would teach my kids Spanish and when I had spoiled like a bad pear, I spent the rest of my time in California looking at fruits and fruit vendors on the street. Fruits being everywhere in California reminded me of Mexico and even my hometown in Texas. I started to think about how I grew up near the other tail end of this fence, the side that faced the Gulf of Mexico. I had lived on both sides of the Texas/ Tamaulipas border in Matamoros and Brownsville so I decided to experience both sides of the border in California/ Baja California. Back home in Brownsville, there are three border crossing sites each now seeming small in comparison to Tijuana’s massive one border. My parents’ favorite crossing bridge in Brownsville was the Veterans International Bridge nicknamed “Los Tomates” (the Tomatos) for being once a tomato farm. Comparatively, Tijuana’s border crossing is massive, the pedestrian bridge is equipt for moving masses and is the busiest border crossing in the U.S. In many ways this felt dreamlike, a place like home but not just quite it. Familiarity loses its grounding and just becomes a facade of reality.
I went to both beaches to watch the fence shoot out into the ocean. The beach on the American side sat lonely. A border patrol office sits behind you and guards as you take a picture. You are not allowed to touch the fence. In Tijuana, you can stick your hand in the fence and no one cares. Families sat in picnics by the border fence and kids used it as a prop in their play time. On my walk back to the pedestrian bridge, I went through a familiar protocol. When you cross a border, you are asked to declare any items you are bringing back with you. An item you are asked to declare are fruits, which are banned according to invasiveness and commodity market value. I had no fruits from my beach trip but watched a woman and her daughter pull out a bag of avocados a couple steps ahead of me. This reminded me of When my parents would buy cheap and fresh avocado boxes on their weekend Matamoros trip, and we would pull all the seeds out at the store. Then when we arrived at customs, I would help my mother by presenting the empty avocados to be witnessed by the guard. Each a body without seed.
DHS Products from Canada and Mexico
Many products grown in Canada or Mexico are allowed to enter the United States. This includes many vegetables and fruits; however, seed potatoes from Canada currently require a permit and fresh tomatoes and bell peppers are prohibited from Canada. Additionally, stone fruit, apples, mangoes, oranges, guavas, sopote, cherimoya and sweet limes from Mexico require a permit. Avocados from Mexico that are peeled, halved and have the seed removed are enterable if in liquid or vacuum-packed but are subject to inspection.
If I were to be a rotting fruit, what would my dad be who brought me here? Is he the seed? I found myself pondering immigration narratives while watching time lapse videos of flowers turning into fruits. A shaking flower blooms into a pear and the video ends once the fruit rots. What becomes of a fruit after it rots?
Gloria and the pondering of life after rotting brought me to the conclusion that I should honor the dreams collected by archiving the text though different formats. I decided to cherish these dreams and find ways to preserve them to assist others with their own self-analysis. At first, two 42” X 200” prints of dreams intertwined with fruit cycles as an exploration of assimilation in dreams. I used my own dreams to first play with. I created an impossible billboard dream print that was inspired by “Los Tomates” bridge and Magritte’s Golconda. This experiment proved to be too difficult to be read but made a large impact on how to dream big. I used dreams from before and after my move to Michigan.
May 12 2020
I arrive at a house expecting to see my college best friend Harrison, I instead see a woman I've never met. I know she is a mutual friend and my ex college boyfriend Rhys is there, the one that broke up with me over the phone. I can't really look at him and feel uncomfortable and my clothes are too tight so I go to another room to change and wait for my friend Harrison.
I put on a ruffled shirt and walk into the kitchen. I pour myself water in a glass and notice there are pickled vegetables in the water. Rhys arrives and slams the drink out of my hand. I text Harrison to ask when he will arrive. I feel my stomach sink just being around Rhys.
Then I find myself running in the rain with Rhys, Harrison and my high school friend Michelle. We are running in my mother’s neighborhood where I lived in middle school, before I got kicked out. I ask if at this point, we are running to or away from home.
June 8 2020
I dreamt I was in a world alike Mexico, I was there on some sort of film festival. I dreamt my boyfriend and his friends Christine and Katie were there. We snuck in through a vent in the ceiling into a food pantry and grabbed some snacks. I remember putting hot sauce on some chips and saying it was some sort of delicacy. We snuck out of the pantry and it was a fancy neighborhood.
June 1 2021
I had a dream a single tooth from the bottom of my mouth fell off and I placed it back in, trying to convince myself there was nothing wrong with it.
I also used audio from my train ride across the United States to tell Gloria’s story. I projected videos from the train ride in the installation Gloria on the Pacific Surfliner pictured adjacent to the Three Pocha Dreams print. I hired a voice artist to repeat the conversation I had with Gloria, in a film dub format. The text from the conversation was animated freely in yellow Arial font to mimic subtitles. Seeing the print and video neatly next to each other made me wonder if there was a way I could bring the mediums together to both render a dream and archive it at the same time. After speaking with astrophysicist Mark Moldwin at the University of Michigan’s NASA program, I found that I needed to work with lasting materials that could survive time. His advice to place the dreams in different plate tectonics prompted me to wonder more about combining medias into archival landscapes. That is, if the world was to end, placing archives in the different earth lithosphere allowed there to be a greater chance of the archive surviving an earthquake or natural destruction.
I also started to experiment with 360 videos, to archive a whole environment as part of a dream. At first it was just a field, then I went to every Mexican grocery store I had left posters in and documented the space in different angles through 360 video. I then edited the dreams as text embedded in each video dream.
During this time I was also working on a zine that showcased an old photography project in which I switched meat stickers to non-meat items. The project had started back in 2016 and I called it a form of “suburban graffiti''. The bright orange “GREAT FOR BURRITOS” meat stickers misplaced on watermelons always gave me a good laugh. This old project made me decide to also produce stickers, since I had been working with fruits as assimilation symbols. Encoding the video into the fruit sticker as part of the DNA came shortly after that decision. Using this video embedded process I created two different large video murals as both print and video archives. I also experimented with printing the stickers to be placed on fresh fruits as well as on printed fruits.
As part of the MFA thesis exhibition, the Dream Video Mural engaged in VR dream technology inviting guests to scan a fruit sticker code and be transported to three different dreamscapes.
San Diego Union Station: Border Blaster
Arriving in San Diego after a 70+ hour train ride, I was delighted to lay in a REAL bed at the hotel. As I looked over, the alarm clock was a DREAM MACHINE Sony model with big green numbers. I turned on the radio and listened to a landscape of channels in English and Spanish coming in and out of the broadcast. As I fell asleep, I felt a familiar intertwining of two cultures fighting over a FM station number. When I woke up in the middle of the night, the station had mutated into a noise machine. I quickly took a video and sent it over to my advisors Heidi Kumao and Phoebe Gloeckner, with no real explanation and fell back into a tired slumber.
Historically, border towns have been radio hubs for freak DJs and independent radio stations known as Border Blasters, high powered radio stations built outside the border to avoid FCC regulations with eclectic and bilingual content that is totally uncensored. Border radio operators sidestepped the Federal Radio Commission by moving just across the border and using modified transmitters.
In Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves “While most radio outlets in the United States broadcast over transmitters about 1,000 watts of power, border stations boomed their programming across America with transmitters humming at a much as 1,000,000 watts.” Blasting from mostly secluded border farm towns, with 100,000 watt radio frequencies being blasted across the United States and Mexico starting in the mid 1930s. These stations were a huge influence on teens in the 50's and 60’s, notably in country and tejano music hotspots. These border radio stations were so powerful there were reports of the stations playing on barbed wire and braces due to the amount of unregulated voltage. On November 9, 1972 in Washington, D.C., the United States and Mexico signed an "Agreement Concerning Frequency Modulation Broadcasting in the 87.5 to 108 MHz Band" banning Border Blasters. Though there are still Border Blasters, the migration from AM to FM radio has made them less popular stations. Former Border Blasters are now FCC regulated radio stations, like XEPRS-AM formerly known as XERB in Tijuana and XED-AM based out of Reynosa which was considered the first border blaster station. Since the stations were licensed in Mexico, the border stations were given call letters beginning with XE and mostly resided in AM stations.
Once I was back in my studio in Michigan, I started to play with transmitting the dreams as radio stations. I purchased a church parking lot radio amplifier and commissioned some sound artists to assist with the rendering of the dreams. My first collaboration was with ethnomusicologist and sound artist Jeannelle Ramirez, based out of Austin,TX. Jeannelle’s interest in electro-folkloric music festivals and her own art practice within the Caribbean diaspora made me think she could both relate to some of these dreams but have a very different point of reference. I also invited Henna Chou to collaborate with us, who is a data scientist by day and experimental cellist by night. Her rendering of dreams included a deconstruction of sound as the basis of melody. Lastly, San Antonio based sonidera Lizette Ortiz aka Pancha Beatz gave a chicano sensibility to the renderings. During this time, we also had long discussions of being called pochas. Together we created an hour long program for a radio station, of dreams and dreamscapes using calls from the Dream Hotline. The radio was part of my thesis installation, including individual radio headphones for people to have a more intimate listening experience. It clouded the atmosphere with a fuzzy sense of a bilingual daydream.
It was a natural transition to decide to press the dreams on a vinyl record as a form of public scholarship and a tangible archival object. I pondered over Mark Moldwin’s words on the need to plan for the dreams to survive catastrophe. Having been part of the Latinx collective Chulita Vinyl Club, I was very aware of the influence and importance of vinyl in the Spanish language. Mexican bands from inland would travel to try to popularize their music in the frontera for a higher chance of breaking through in the United States. Labels like Falcon Records founded in1948 or Freddie Records founded in 1969, were historically the only Spanish speaking record labels to support Tejanos and Spanish speaking artists.
Similar to the fuzzy and glitchy DREAM MACHINE alarm clock radio I experienced in several hotels in California, the dreams were incorporated into a sort of album radio station that loops through dreamscapes. The record will be pressed at 100 copies by Gotta Groove Records, mastered by Austin based producer Sean Smith and distributed to archives and the public summer 2022. The vinyl record is a psychodynamic audio tool for deep listening practice.
a dream, it’s a seed
My research has shown dreams offer a rich psyche experience that through experimental video rendering could be a great aid to better understanding the lives and identity of immigrant women living in the United States. The narrative seen in mainstream media is optimal for betraying the complexities of identity for an interest in consumerist values and washing out the visual audio cultural aspects that can be unique to the character. A constructive media landscape of immigrant Mexican rasquache video aesthetics pulls in a complex view of self representation outside the narrows cape of national identity. The archival aspect of the project also works as an information bank for future research on the internal experience of immigrants during the 2020's in the United States.
Immigrants are similar to the Rio Grande River in that they are the buffer for two cultures, the boundary for both–not from here and not totally from there. Immigrants' dreams teach us something important about waking life. We can’t turn back time and we are always looking at the past. Only in dreams can we visit the memory of home as it was at a faster speed and slower time. Most importantly, they can show us how our inner architecture is shaped through the media we consume which is relative to space, time and history.
A dream, it’s a seed
Flower to fruit
Alien to citizen
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