By Corrie Tan
P7:1SMA’s mini residency to kick off their dreamworld explorations feels a bit like being in a fever dream. The creative and production team, along with invited guest speakers, have gathered in a chalet for three days of collective liminality. This isn’t the first time that the dance company is dancing with the dusky parts of our consciousness; an inaugural activation of M/MPI was presented in 2021 just as the country and its performing arts sector was emerging from months of a brutal pandemic battering. M/MPI: Reveries Meeting / Khayalan Bersua (July 2021) offered us a collection of images and gestures drawn from and reacting to the khayalan or imagination of the performers.
This time, the company and its associate artists were keen to explore ramalan or the divinatory aspect of dreaming. From Jungian dream interpretation to Javanese dreamscapes to indigenous dreamweaving, we went on a deep dive into understandings of that purgatorial space in both Nusantara and global contexts in order to invoke and evoke possibilities for manifesting or translating these explorations into movement and dance. We spent three days with three guests—Suryakenchana Omar, Hafiz Rashid and Sarafian Salleh—embarking on mini-adventures with a range of concepts, materials and histories.
Both the cognitive and spiritual dimensions of the dreamworld collide in various ways in the work of M/MPI. Sociologist and dream specialist Prof. G. William Domhoff, who has been researching the neurocognitive processes behind dreaming, has highlighted the khayalan or imaginative part of dreaming in his work. During the day, our brains are preoccupied by the executive network and the attention network, networks that dictate all our sensory, visual and sensory-motor systems that allow us to interact with the world: make decisions, estimate time, walk from one place to another. But at night, these networks deactivate, leaving room for the neural substrate, the parts of our brain that revolve around networks of the imagination, selfhood and identity, memory, and introspection. “Dreaming is an intensified form of mind-wandering,” Prof Domhoff says, “Dreaming is based on our imaginations. The same network that supports imaginative thought, like a really good daydream, is basically the network that supports dreaming.”
At the same time, the terrain of the unconscious is so difficult to research and explore—dream memory recall is unreliable and often completely arbitrary; and even trying to figure out how much external stimuli filters into our dreamscapes has been pegged at anything between 9% to 87%, a range so wide it might as well be interpreted as anything or nothing at all. This is when we stray into the territory of wahyu and other forms of prophetic dreaming, and what it means to divine meaning and structure from these unchartered geographies. I felt like something of a dreamwalker throughout this three-day workshop period, wandering in and out of P7:1SMA’s collective dreamscape, and my offerings here will resemble what we attempt to record on waking: fragments, glimpses, snatches, possibilities of the shape of a world beyond our own.
Day One. It’s sunset over the Pasir Ris coast, and as all of us cluster in the dimly lit chalet living room, cross-legged on the floor or sprawled across couches, it feels a little bit like the start of a secondary school sleepover. We take turns to offer little glimpses into our subconscious: one of the performers dreams of themselves in the third person, and wakes up when they see their own face; another discusses the past life regressions imprinted in our consciousness and DNA; yet another cautions us against interacting with any of the characters who emerge out of the fog of our dreams, because their requests for help may linger beyond the dreaming realm.
Our first evening is spent with Suryakenchana Omar, whose cultural heritage and research work is primarily invested in Javanese cultural and spiritual practices. He inducts us into vocabularies of dreaming, particularly that of rasa (in the Javanese rather than the Malay), which at its root may mean taste, sensation or meaning, but when used as a compound word or phrase reveals an entire constellation of meaning around premonitions and revelations, and how feeling becomes a rigorous hermeneutical structure.
ngrasa to feel, sense;
ngrasani to talk about someone (behind their back);
ngrasakaké 1 to taste, sample; 2 to feel, experience, take note of;
rasanan or rerasanan 1 to talk, chat; 2 gossip, food for conversation;
krasa to have (a certain) taste or feeling;
pangrasa feeling; idea;
rasa pangrasa 1 feeling, interpretation, idea; 2 the inner feeling of the heart;
krasan to feel at home;
ngrasanaké to cause to feel at home;
rumasa or rumangsa 1 thought; 2 to have feeling;
ngrumangsani to be aware, realise, see in true perspective;
rumangsanan a feeling of pride or superiority;
mirasa tasty, delicious;
surasa meaning, content, connotation;
nyurasa to get the meaning, sense the connotation;
panyurasa grasp or insight into meanings contained in texts, messages etc.
Suryakenchana regales us with dream knowledge passed down to him from his mother and grandmother, and reminds us that it may not be so crucial what the subject matter of the dream is, but when in the night the dream takes place—in particular times of the night, the border between the living and the spirit realm becomes that much more permeable. Here is where rasa comes into play: it is also important to pay attention to the emotional residue the dream leaves behind, and how it sits in the body on waking.
Day Two. Hafiz Rashid is our guest this morning, and he’s brought a generous and gorgeous stack of batik pieces with him. The self-described nusantara otaku is also a library officer, museum docent, storyteller and batik collector, and he lays out before us a series of textiles that engage with dreams in two broad ways:
Spiritually potent dreams (mimpi) from ancestors that allow indigenous communities such as the Iban to embark on rituals and receive weaving patterns for spiritual containment or cleansing;
Batik that allows its makers to incorporate their dreams and aspirations (cita-cita) into the imagery of the cloth.
We watch a video interview with a prominent Iban dreamweaver, Bangie Anak Embol, who works with pua kumbu, a traditional and ceremonial cloth specific to their community in Sarawak. She initially resisted the call of her ancestors in her dreams to begin the weaving process because she knew it would be an exhausting and endless practice. After repeated warnings and losing multiple weaving competitions, her ancestors threatened to burn down the Iban longhouse if she did not heed the call. She caved, embarking on a mordanting ritual with her cousin that inducted her into the dreamweaving process.
Hafiz talks us through the various motifs in each piece of batik; a few of us wrap the various batik around ourselves, trying to render ourselves porous to the potency of each piece of cloth. My favourite of the pieces that he brings in is a tambal or patchwork batik that is made specifically for the healing of the wearer. You must be broken before you can be remade, repaired, restored.
Day Three. We explore the cemeteries of the former Kampung Marang, just a short walk from Harbourfront MRT. Our intrepid volunteer tour guide Sarafian Salleh, mechanical engineer by day and amateur Buginese historian by night (well, and also by day). His interest and expertise in this area also comes from investigating his own Bugis heritage, and he comes armed with a thick file folder of images and other visual aids. It’s a day of encountering the dead and considering the ways in which they occupy both the physical and psychogeographical landscapes of our country.
We wander through some overgrown plots of land and dodge through thicker vegetation to reach a small burial plot, a collection of graves from the 1800s and 1900s that include the founder of Kampung Marang, businessman Ahmad (Marang) Omar, as well as Abdul Halim Karto, who reportedly served as a Justice of the Peace in the Straits Settlements (including areas such as Telok Blangah, Kampong Bahru, Pasir Panjang and the Southern Islands), and founded three mosques in Singapore; he was also the grandfather of former Aljunied GRC MP Wan Hussin Zoohri.
A short walk away is the former royal residence turned mosque, Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, which houses the Johor Royal Mausoleum (Makam Diraja Johor Telok Blangah) and is one of only two mosques in Singapore that come under Malaysia’s Johor Religious Department. The mausoleum and cemetery are also owned by the State of Johor and the Sultan of Johor. Temenggong Abdul Rahman, the Temenggong of Johor who signed the Treaty of Singapore with Sir Stamford Raffles and Major William Farquhar, lived and is buried here in a marble-floored, yellow-walled room—cool, cloistered away, and almost eerily quiet.
We end the day at Keramat Radin Mas at the foot of Mount Faber, where we are graced by the presence of caretaker Pak Daeng, who has steadfastly maintained the site since 1999. The shrine is dedicated to Radin Mas Ayu, and Sarafian retells the familiar story of revenge and forbidden love to all of us, sitting crosslegged and rapt on the floor of the shrine, as the sun sets around us and the birdsong thickens around the settling dusk. Throughout our time together, we’ve been talking about dawn and dusk as liminal periods where the world gets thin and more porous to the dreamworld, so it feels apt to be here as the night falls.
I spent the next few days wondering why we were drifting through these spaces of the dead when the scope of our project is focussed largely on dreaming. Then I’m reminded of Hamlet’s famous monologue from the third act of the tragedy:
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
Islamic dream theory also directly connects sleep and death; the Iranian medical research fellow and spiritual health scholar Minoo Asadzandi writes:
Throughout life, the incomplete separation of the soul from the body occurs in stages like sleep. The Quran considers sleep as a temporary and incomplete separation of the soul from the body. There are many similarities between death and sleep. In both cases, the soul disconnects its belongings from the body. Imam Baqir (AS) said: “Death is the dream that comes to you every night, but its time is long and waking up from it, will be on the Day of Resurrection”. In fact, sleep is a weak face of death, and death is a perfect example of sleep. (Asadzandi 2018)
Our tiny voyage to the world of death and sleep marks the beginning of a far longer journey, and it feels strange now to return to the site of the start and recognise this is a journey that because of the circumstances of life I could not follow; the same way we cannot follow others down their separate journeys of sleep and mortality. As P7:1SMA begins its three-day M/MPI:thon at Kult Kafe, I’m reminded of the circularity of this journey, and the ways in which we might circle back to each other in the conscious and subconscious paths we take, even if we cannot reach across that gap of soul and body. And I hope part of this marathon of waking and sleeping, and all the spaces in-between, reaches across that gap to you.
Get your tickets to M/MPI: Thon now!
Dreams motivate humans.
What stays in your body after dreaming?
Do dreams help with processing our memories?
Come ‘thon’ with P7:1SMA from sunset to sunrise at Kult Kafe to play and participate in the embodiment of dreams. Time is relative. Come at anytime, especially when you feel its meaningful for you.
‘Thon’ is a colloquial term from ‘marathon’ which refers to an all-nighter lepak with friends. This M/MPI gathering offers you an opportunity to be with your body, in stillness and in the doing. Relating to dreams in various cultural perspectives, the perceived meanings of dreams and its significance for individuals.
7pm: Collaborative Activation - 9 of Swords (by Zarina Muhammad)
8pm: Sharing - Awakening Rasa (by Suryakenchana Omar)
10pm: Performance - Manis (by Norhaizad Adam) + Sleeping bodies drawing (by Nurul Atiqah Zaidi)
11pm: Sharing - Dreamweavers (by Hafiz Rashid)
12am: Jamu kultails workshop (by Zac Mirza)
2am: Performance - Basah (by Hasyimah Harith)
4am: Activity - Slowing down (by Sonia Kwek) + Sonic Dreams (by Aameer + Alicia)
5am: Activity - Checking In (by Kow Xiao Jun) + Sleeping bodies drawing (by Nurul Atiqah Zaidi)
6am: Performance - Kirim (by Ismail Jemaah)
Ongoing activities through the night:
Henna (Making stains)
Sleep bodies (Making marks)
Sonic dreams (Musicking)
Night 1: Friday, 24 Nov 7pm to Saturday 25 Nov 7am
Night 2: Saturday, 25 Nov 7pm to Sunday 26 Nov 7am
Venue: Kult Kafe at The Grandstand, 200 Turf Club Rd, # 01 - 19B, Singapore 287994
Each purchased ticket allows for re-entry on the purchased night.
One complimentary drink per ticket. Additional drinks can be purchased at the bar.
Students will need to present student concession pass upon entry.
Ticket prices are on a sliding scale of $35, $45, $55. Please select accordingly when purchasing tickets. We appreciate your generosity as it will fuel the artistic and administrative costs to create this unique all-nighter experience.
Venue generously supported by: Kult Kafe (The Grandstand)
M/MPI by P7:1SMA
Md. Hariz Bakri
Kow Xiao Jun
Nur Arianty Djonaede
Md Al-Hafiz Hosni
Eleanor Si Ying Ee
De Silva Alicia Joyce
Mischa Putri Purnawan
Nurul Atiqah Zaidi