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From Dreamspace to Performance Space

Dreamed before 1988 by Lili Berko


Each night as we put our egos to rest, if we are lucky, we enter a dreamworld full of images... [that] become subject to a process of secondary revision when we awaken. This process may also be described as a capitalism of the ego... [like] a captain of industry who by increasing his information flow is at the same time estranging himself both from the source of his raw material (nature) and his workers (imagination). (Hillman, p. 118)

My dream images have often served as the basis for my own writing and performance pieces... I have often had to make battle with the "captain of industry" that dwells inside of me... who insists on exploiting the dream... it takes away from that aspect of the dream that interests me most as an artist... as the perspective of nature, flesh and matter fall away leaving what Hellman has referred to as "an existence of immaterial mirrorlike images--eidola" (Hillman, 52)

By attempting to remain in touch with the eidola of my dreams, as such, I have shied away from the act of interpretation... my goal is to allow the "reality" of the dream space to be perceived...


Dream Narrative

I am in a hospital room. The walls are all green and I feel as though I am swimming in an ocean. I don't want to be in this place and I have such pain and such pressure and I'm frightened. The colors change and the walls are no longer a flat green, their surface no longer smooth. Shades of green multiply, purples and blues enter the picture and I am surrounded by an ocean. I am in the ocean, I am drowning. I am wet all over. The ocean glistens. Small waves and ripples go over me. I raise my hand, I cry out in arabic, Yuma, Yuma (mother). The ocean is almost beautiful and its beauty terrifies me.

A great cruise ship is on the horizon and that is where I belong. I see the people leaning over the rail. I know they are looking at me. Please save me. The ship is going to go to America without me. My mother is on the ship. Mommy, mommy please take me with you. I smell the salt water and feel it crawling inside of me. The smell of the ocean turns into the smell of old sex. My legs are wet and warm, my stomach has a hole in it. Thanos, a dream sketch by Lili Berko.

At this moment I remembered that I was pregnant. That I was going to have a baby. I am lying on an enormous table. My legs are strapped into stirrups. I am in pain. I hurt. Oh mommy where are you. An Indian doctor is in front of me. Her face disappears behind the white cloth. The cloth becomes red. Her hands are inside of me, feeling groping pushing. I scream. Stop, you're killing it, you are killing it. She pulls her hand out and it is all bloody and she comes to me and shakes her finger at me. My blood splatters on my face, on the white sheets. I spit in her face.

I am alone in the hospital room and I see a hospital chart. It says that a healthy baby boy was born. There is a check under his name. His name is Obdale and I know he is mine and I want him. And I see him and he is brown and his eyes are puffy but he has a hole in his head, why.

His face disappears and I cry for the nurses to let me see him again. I want him--but the pain starts again. I search for his face and I pick up my head.

Pieces of flesh come pouring out of me. Pieces of meat. They float in front of me. I try to get hold of them. I know the nurses. They won't believe that he is alive and they will try to throw him away in a plastic garbage bag. I realize then that this must be a dream and I call for the nurse. Let me see my baby.

Obdale, I dreamt of you last night
I dream of you every night
I never see you whole
not any more
Pieces of meat falling
Pieces of you
Out of my empty hole.

There are children and babies
In my dream
None of them are you

Pieces of bloody flesh

Let me see you as you could have been.

I don't know.
They say you were never ever
Even anything more.
I want you now. I want you now.
I want you now. The way you could have been.

I see her, that fucking Indian woman. She has a white plastic bag, white plastic gloves and I remember that all followers of the Rajneesh must wear plastic gloves and condoms when they have sex. I am following her. I am in a green forest, brown dirt and autumn leaves dried out. Purples and dark green. There is a tire. A black treadless used up tire. I don't see the doctor anymore but I know that this is my place. I see a beautiful hispanic man, he is sitting on the tire. He is wearing an embroidered jacket. Then I notice that he is watching a baseball game. There is a meadow. It is fine. There are three hispanic women.

One woman with red lips and long hair and button plastic earring comes to me. She is short and slender and bosomy. "We've been waiting for you. He needs someone like you. Some one with a head on her shoulders. Go to him." She must be his sister. "It will be so much fun to have you." I walk to him. His jacket shows that the name of his gang is Thanotos and I see his face. I am awake and my pain is gone.

Performance Script

Location: Interior. Hospital Room. Interior dream space.

Action: Woman giving birth to death.
Props: Wooden cubes and two chairs.
Lighting: Key light on patients' face and legs. Colored fill lights on chorus. Lili Berko in Thanos, a dream performance.


CHORUS: Chorus move in wavelike motion, pushing forward, up and down. A grating buzz comes from them. They are the audio-visuals of Patient's dream space.


PATIENT: Patient is lying on an operating room table. It is long and narrow, she seems to be lost on it. Her legs are spread wide apart. They are in stirrups. (Legs could be resting on two chairs) She is giving birth, giving birth to death. She does not know this. She wants to believe that what she has inside of her is alive. But, alive or dead she won't give it up. She wants it. She is a dream image floating between dreams herself, caught in a web of her own imagery. She writhes in pain, she tries to scream, but her screams are drowned out by the sound of machinery. The whooshing sucking sound of a vacuum. A sound that soon sounds like the wind and ocean.
She is drowning in an ocean. She reaches to the chorus, crying "Yuma, Yuma".


CHORUS: The Chorus push forward, reaching out to her, but they cannot reach her. The noise becomes louder as they slowly move to her. When they get to her, she is pushed back down on the table, they force her legs to open again.


PATIENT: Patent now understands that they are not coming to help her. They are coming to steal that which is inside of her. She struggles against their attempts to spread her legs, to put her back in stirrups. But they succeed.

CHORUS: Lead chorus member pushes and pulls at the void between this woman's legs.

PIECES OF FLESH: Finally, the pieces of dead flesh begin to topple out. They are portrayed by members of the chorus. They roll out, they swirl, they twirl. They are balled up, each only allows one part of his/her body to be free. Finally, all the chorus members are pieces of flesh, pieces of the life that was inside of her, floating before her.

PATIENT: The patient tries to catch them, she wants to push them back inside of her. They roll away from her, they are slippery and have a life of their own, even in death. Finally, she grabs hold of one. But in her hands, even the slippery motion of gravity and dreams end.

THANOS: This is the "Piece of Flesh" that the woman finally is able to grasp. In her hands, he unfolds, his body is whole, but he becomes lifeless.

--Lili Berko


I find Berko's script surprising for what it leaves out--not just "interpretation", but two of the three core scenes of the dream! It opened with the immigration ship and mom abandoning her, only then going to the loss of baby Obdale; it ended as Death's family [Thanatos in Greek] invites her into their gang. Even Berko, opposed to interpretation, surely must admit those scenes hint at loss of country, language, parents, trust, life... The baby is just one example.

Yet loss is not all. Gains too. Death is attractive, Death has a family... and you can join it. Eventually, you will.

--Chris Wayan

SOURCE: Dreamworks: an Interdisciplinary Quarterly (v.5, no.3/4, 1988, p.153-7). Introduction edited for brevity (much artspeak). Footnotes cite James Hillman but not which book--Anima? The Dream and the Underworld?

LISTS AND LINKS: ships - age-bent dreams - kids - moms - swimming - rescue vs. abandonment - birth - doctors - pain - blood - the dead - grief - personifications of Death - the power of names - dream poetry & drama - James Hillman meets Death Personified on the moon--or so he thinks--in Groundhog Day

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