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Artist collective Ghost of a Dream reflects on collaboration and social change

Artists Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom of Ghost of a Dream speak to STIR on the evolution of collaboration and the place art collectives hold in responding to social needs.

by Girinandini SinghPublished on : Mar 16, 2021

The last decade has been fraught with socio-political upheavals, large-scale movements, protests, and political activism; its culmination in the year 2020 felt like we had arrived at the boiling point of social change ready for a radical new way of being. There is more to respond to and investigate in our external environments than ever before, all the while we remain better connected across cultures, people, and countries. It is this primal interconnected nature of existence, which lies at the centre of the collaborative artist duo Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was’s practice called Ghost of a Dream; the artists create large sculptural installations, collages, and immersive pieces of video and text responding to the collective yearning for hope.

Yesterday is Here | Ghost of a Dream | STIRworld
Yesterday is Here Image: Courtesy of Ghost of a Dream

“We make our work about people, their hopes and dreams, using the ephemera that people create while trying to attain those aspirations,” says the artist duo about the motivation behind their practice. Ghost of a Dream has a particular penchant for using markers of hope, wishful tokens like collections of lottery tickets, playing cards, Hollywood tropes, and art fair detritus to create scaled installations, elaborate pieces of video work and sculptures. Their materials are symbols of dreams - towards a better life, a make-it-big-success story, the archetypal ever-after fairytale - which are put together in an arresting format screaming for attention. The dizzyingly bright and intricate collages and sculptural pieces have a mesmerising quality to them, which draws on the spiritual magnificence of the possibilities of life, if only slightly tainted by the materialism from social constructs. For a moment though, one is so tantalised by the dream that we are prepared to ignore the unsteady foundation on which it is built - one of false hopes. It can be said that at the heart of their work is the idea of a collective desire, morphed according to the shifting trends in culture - material, social, spiritual, and intellectual.

31 mins watch Gone the Sun by Ghost of a Dream | STIRworld
Gone the Sun Video: Courtesy of Ghost of a Dream

In their work Statistic of Hope, made in collaboration with Jennifer Dalton, similar themes of dreams are explored through chance, risk, hope and truth. This is envisioned via an interactive gaming installation. The audience is physically able to experience "the odds of various hopeful and fearsome outcomes". “We do not dictate what people see in our work, nor do we give some kind of grand overarching explanation to it. We have a title and a material list and usually it is the material list which contextualises the work,” explains Ghost of a Dream. Statistics of Hope is made by incorporating materials like gaming tables, twenty-sided dice, one-minute hourglass timers, a shuffleboard, and so on. It is a poignant rendition of our universal dreams and fears in the backdrop of the statistical likelihood of their realisation. What are the odds of overnight wealth? How life can turn within the fraction of a second that it takes for a grain of sand to fall in an hourglass? What is the nature of the natural ups and downs of life?

Statistics of Hope | Rafael Gamo | STIRworld
Statistics of Hope Image: Rafael Gamo

"Art is not a solitary experience anymore, as we enter this age of crisis through the recent pandemic of COVID-19, its ongoing implications, this became clearer than ever. In response we began our project Aligned by the Sun, which seeks to connect artists from every country on the planet,” mentions the duo. They further add, "We are collaborating with artists from more than 200 countries, covering a number of nations and territories. The idea is to ask them to create a seven-minute video of the sun. The way the piece would be experienced is that the audience will be surrounded by the light of the sun setting in 200 countries simultaneously”. This expression of the collective desire is truly relevant at a time when globally we are craving kinship, communal bonds, and a deep desire to come together; it also witnesses a coming of age for art collectives the world over, united by the virtual platform, social media, and the internet.

the Truth, the Truth, the Truth is on Fire | Ghost of a Dream | STIRworld
the Truth, the Truth, the Truth is on Fire Image: Courtesy of Ghost of a Dream

The challenge for the collective creating in the contemporary era is in being confronted by a constant barrage of social issues, their work a continuous commentary on communal relief, the pressure of meeting the needs for upliftment, engagement, and empowerment. In a period when travel bans, isolation, and persecution are the norm, when we are experiencing the global confusion and fear stemming from a pandemic, providing hope and communal upliftment comes as a big ask. Aligned by the Sun is thus, a response to the crisis age, a symbolic work of hope that is not entrenched in material culture but rather in a spiritual and emotional landscape, building a culture of collaboration and connection.

Ghost of a Dream in their studio | STIRworld
Ghost of a Dream in their studio Image: Courtesy of Ghost of a Dream

“As we started to collect objects relating to what surrounds our basic desires - health, love, money, connectedness, material wants, and ambitions, we started to see influences of the things people try to leave behind as they fight to attain their desires,” they say. It is the discarded which finds its way in their work, the unlikely and the improbable, the things we turn to or forsake in hope of attainment of the ‘dream’.

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