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Blue Delight: Cyanotype Algae as a Dream Glossary


This series of images from the 19th century is so evocative that we could well use it to represent the history of our dreams.

The structure of dreams, if the phrase itself is not contradictory, is in essence dilated and impossible to grasp. At the end of the day that is perhaps the psychobiological function of dreaming: an arena in which we can distend the processing of our individual reality without constraints that detain or rule the flow of our experience.

If we consider the former as a hypothesis worth developing, then we could begin by playing with the idea of establishing a symbolic code to condense, in little icons, the representations of our dreams. And once we enter that imaginative exercise, fate will take us to an encounter with the British cyanotypes of algae of the 19th century. This is a brief glossary of organic forms that, distilled in blue, can serve us perfectly to pictorially translate episodes from the flow of dreams.

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was an English botanist and photographer who made an inventory of diverse organisms using the cyanotype technique. Her work was immortalized in three books, Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns (1853), Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns (1854) y Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843). In the latter, of which only three copies are known to exist, including some incomplete ones, we can see images of those marine organisms that stand out both for their elegant simplicity and their notable potential to suggest narrative structures.


Thus, returning to the original exercise and after dedicating a few minutes to observing the algae-like forms that Atkins documented, we can imagine a series of correspondences between these and the narrative structures of our dreams: some of them are extremely simple, almost monolithic, while others reveal themselves in interminable ramifications; there are light, almost weightless ones, as well as intricate and impenetrable ones. We also find rhythmic forms, evanescent designs and figures that barely appear, like a breath of a possibility – those occasions when dreams, or our recollection of them, do not wholly germinate but rather leave us with an indelible trace of a sensation.

Seduced by the beauty of these images, we dare to propose this unusual aesthetic therapy. After all, dedicating some moments to delighting ourselves with the forms that surround us is an essentially healing resource that is always there for us.





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