Bar of dreams, in the process of being built, at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at UW.
  • Courtesy the artists (Tamara Henderson and Julia Feyrer)
  • Bar of dreams, in the process of being built, at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at UW.

As a kid I had a recurring dream* that I was holding something in my hands. I’d be holding this thing whatever else was happening in the dream. Because of this, my entire young waking life I carried the vague memory of having held this perfect thing. I never saw it.

I waited for its identity to be revealed. It felt firm but squeezable, and it fit just so in my hand, sticking out a little on the sides. My theory on how the mystery would be solved was this: I was a kid, so I figured this thing must be an adult thing I had yet to come across. It might even have been my own grown-up body part: who knew. I still think that someday, something is going to come into my hands and that’s going to be it. I handle and touch things and the people close to me, just to see if they're it. I still can’t wait to find it. I don't know why I believe that my dream is a real, concrete thing in the world. I guess it's because I like searching for it.

In the installation at UW's Jacob Lawrence Gallery through this Saturday, I felt like I met two fellow searchers, people turning dreams into objects, even if—or maybe because—the objects will never be exactly what they were in the dreams, they'll sort of kick off their own dreams instead. All art objects, in some ways, are the imprecise translations of intangible dreams, and in that way they just keep the dreaming cycle going. Henderson and Feyrer keep dream journals and talk about being "nocturnal journalists," the kind of reporters who cover the shift while everyone's sleeping rather than the one where everyone's awake. Their beat is the dream world. (Maybe there's also a commentary there about the fact that journalism in the late 20th century has seemed to be asleep on the job in so many ways, or soporific.)

Their bar at UW has four different segments like stills from a film. They're based on an exquisite corpse drawing the two artists did together, which you can see here. Each segment is its own individual set with its own individual lighting scheme. At left there's the sandbagged beach bar, tropical escape and disaster area both. Next to it there's the smoking bar, with disembodied plaster-cast arms holding rainbow-colored cigarettes on top, and bodies cast into the bar itself, barflies that can never leave. Next is the green-algae bar, and then, the papier-mached press bar covered in newspaper. The artists, who live in Vancouver, B.C., visited a few weeks ago to give a lecture to a class of art students, and after the talk there was a party at the dream bar, with real drinks according to the themes of each bar (tropical something-or-other, smoke beer, blue-green health drink, red wine). The artists bartended for a while, and students, professors, and curators all got drunk and sang karaoke together.

Before the party, the artists used the bar as a set to create a film on handcranked Super 8. Now, what remains in the gallery is the aftermath of the party—yet another version of the visions, which have gone from drawing to sculpture to film to party to remains. The physical objects rose up like waves on a sea of stories and associations, then they'll be taken apart, crashing back into the flow. It's a wonder they sat still long enough to become objects in a gallery for a while.

*I have one more dream aside that I can't resist. It's about my other dream recurrence when I was a kid: a whole dreamt story about being stabbed by a hypodermic needle that sprung out of a greeting card given to me as I hung off the side of a cliff during a fight with a woman with long, dark hair who until right before that off-the-cliff moment I’d thought was a man due to the fact that he was pretending to be a man and wearing a very good wig of smooth baldness until he peeled it away to blow my mind and push me off the cliff before trying to kill me with the greeting card as I dangled. That dream came to me anytime I slept in my grandmother’s high-ceilinged Ohio farmhouse bedroom. I never expect a hypodermic needle to come shooting out of a greeting card when I open one in a store or as a gift, but I suppose I couldn't be surprised if it did.