Dream Syntax: 10 years on

I’ve been working on a Blender/Unity/VR remake of the dream maps in my book Dream Syntax. Because I had changed computers so many times since then (and have not installed any fonts on the new laptop), this is what my original illustrator working file for Dream Syntax looked like when I opened it:

Pictured is the map for a dream I had 10 years ago, in 2008.

Dream Syntax: The Book – PREORDER IT NOW!

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After days of intensive work, I’m glad to announce that Dream Syntax the Book is almost complete and ready for preorder! NOW WITH 102 MAPS FOR EACH OF THE DREAMS – the most time consuming part of this project ever. And I’ve even made a mockup of what it might look up above there, in case you can’t imagine how the book will look like. Yes, I was so excited about it that I even photoshopped an image of what I imagined the book should look like.

Dream Syntax is the first book by Debbie Ding, containing maps and stories of Debbie’s dreams, 102 of them, from the last 6 years. It is written, illustrated, designed, and self-published by Debbie. I’m only doing a small limited edition of 500, which will be individually hand-numbered, and it should arrive on 5 Sept 2013, just in time for my solo exhibiton on the 6th at Galerie Steph (MORE ABOUT THAT COMING SOON).

If you’re in Singapore, you can even place a preorder for the book now at http://dreamsyntax.bigcartel.com/. You can self-collect or add a little bit more for local postage within Singapore. I should be figuring out the postage rates for International postage in the next few days, so stay tuned. Please support Debbie’s first book!

Here’s a peek at the wet proof from my printer (First Printers):

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So how did this book come about? Well, 6 years ago I began collecting my dreams in map form, over various notebooks and papers. Eventually I realised this could take the form of a book. The book became a never-ending project. Eventually, a line had to be drawn! I decided to arbitarily stop at 100 entries for this book. But in the course of working on the book I had two more dreams. So I added them in. And then there were 102 dreams in the book. So that was the final cap for this book. But of course, the dreaming still goes on and on and on…

This is what the first notebook looked like from 2008:

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When I was hard at work laying out the entire book at breakneck speed, I had another peculiar dream about numbers. Obviously, it did not make the date cut-off for this book, but I think its still worth a mention:

Now, I’ve had many dreams about words and letters, but never any dreams about numbers. But after spending hours wrestling with page numbers and entry numbers, I had a dream that was basically all about numbers. In my dream, I was at the computer, writing out another dream in which there was a character called “3” and I was known as “1”. My father came into my room and saw me typing out the story, and asked me “Why do you always have to play character 1? 1 is the smallest number! Why don’t you play a bigger number?” And I said, “Don’t be silly, 1 is also the most important!” I also knew that “1” was merely a role, a kind of stock character that many actors might play at a certain point in the course of one’s acting career, like Hamlet or King Lear. At that point I decided to go outside to buy an unagi eel for my supper (this must be because that day at dinner, Kent had been going on about how his favourite food at a certain Japanese restaurant was UNAGI fried rice). Stepping out of the house, I walked down the street and past a room full of girls who were all 7s, past a middle-aged 26 sleeping inside a clear perspex box. The person at the 7-11 was a 47. I realised everyone was actually just a number, but I just hadn’t properly noticed it before because I was not looking at it in the right way. I got back to my computer and started drafting out a map of these numbers I had seen. Over the internet, I also told George this strange revelation, “people are all just numbers!” When I told him this, he asked me what number he was. But then, I realised that I did not know what number he was…

Anyway. For more dream stories like this…

 

PREORDER DREAM SYNTAX: THE BOOK
http://dreamsyntax.bigcartel.com

SGD 30 (SELF COLLECT) / SGD 35 (LOCAL POSTAGE WITHIN SINGAPORE)

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DREAM SYNTAX
First Published September 2013
ISBN: 978-981-07-7491-2
Designed by Debbie Ding
Written by Debbie Ding

Dream Syntax (A Collection of 102 dreams from 2008-2013), and a Dream Generated from Other Dreams.

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In 2008 I began a small project called Dream Syntax – a dream journal which not only collected stories of my dreams but also the drawings of the spaces within my dreams. I have just self-printed and hand-bound the textual portion of this project, which consists of 102 dreams from the years 2008 to 2013.

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On Dream Syntax: If the spaces and urban configurations of a city have the ability to affect the way we inhabit it, shouldn’t the spaces in our dreams have the potential to influence us as well, since we experience them just as intensely as our everyday reality? The city exists largely in the memories of its inhabitants, and places in a rapidly changing city may be erased from existence as quickly as a hazy dream evaporates in the early morning. Who is to say then that dreams are of no consequence? Our memories of our dreams are no less tangible than the memories of the real places that we remember ourselves once inhabiting—places which, in reality, exist only in our imagination.

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For THE ARTIST, THE BOOK AND THE CROWD, I was asked to rewrite a book that was of significance to me. There are very many books that have influenced me and my own work; my first degree had been in English Literature, and you could say that reading and writing will always be my first love. Although there were many works to choose from, I decided to rewrite my own book.

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On A Dream Generated From Other Dreams: “Since 2008, I’ve been collecting my dreams in the form of texts and maps of interior spaces, in an attempt to articulate a ‘dream syntax’. In 2013, I began experimenting with a simple Markov Text Generator written in Python. I was interested in using it to generate ‘predictions’ of what I might be dreaming next by applying it to the data I have collected from my dreams over the last few years. A Markov text generator uses a Markov chain to generate the next word in a sentence, and it is commonly used to generate spam text which looks superficially authentic. The choice of the next word depends only on the word preceding it, and there is no real memory or computation of grammar involved. The entire text is simply assessed in terms of what words have a higher probability of being used after each subsequent word. This allows one to generate a ‘real-looking’ text that repurposes words from a master text, through a very simple mechanism. This is a generated ghost of a dream, parsed from the last 6 years of dreaming.”

The book and the print will be at shown at THE ARTIST, THE BOOK AND THE CROWD at The Substation Gallery, from 2 to 11 August 2013, a show about artists’ relationship with books and the written/spoken word. Curated by Ho Rui An, Ang Siew Ching and Karen Yeh, THE ARTIST, THE BOOK AND THE CROWD features new and recent work by Song-Ming Ang, Stephen Black, Sze-Yenn Cheong, Heman Chong, Debbie Ding, Ho Tzu Nyen, Ho Zhen Ming, Godwin Koay, Michael Lee, Lee Wen, Susie Lingham, Joyce Teo, Yu Mingyi and Zhao Renhui.


You’re invited to come to the opening tonight (1 August 2013) at the Substation at 7pm! I will be reading excerpts from my book.

More Information:
http://www.substation.org/event/the-artist-the-book-and-the-crowd/

https://www.facebook.com/events/1392190280999985/
http://artistbookcrowd.com/


The Book Binding Process

I read books all the time, and going by my pigheaded kind of logic, since I read so many books I should KNOW how to make my own books. Piffle and bosh, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately this is a very labour intensive work. This took numerous hours to complete at a time that I already had too little time to spare. I was there sewing for hours. I decided to embark on it because I already had all the tools – a suitable awl, a bone folder, some thread, a needle, some PVA glue, and a cutting board. Actual professional bookbinders, PLEASE AVERT YOUR EYES NOW, or else you will see that my stitching is horrifyingly messy and because I made it up.

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I used Cheap Impostor to do the imposition for this book, which consists of 208 pages, or 13 signatures of 16 each (4 pages). Its a shareware program which costs USD$35, and I know there were many many “free” alternatives but to be honest I didn’t have so much time to waste tweaking things forever and this just did the job. I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I will pay for applications and software if they do the job, especially coming from the perspective of someone who has gotten paid to write code before. So I registered the licence, and within 5 minutes of downloading it, I was on my way to make an imposition of the book that was absolutely perfect for my duplex printer. One another note is that you must select LONG-EDGE BINDING when printing with a duplex printer that ejects paper the short side first.

The Final Binding

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Book aficionados may describe my binding as a “creative mix between a coptic stitch and long stitch”. Or, a big amateurish mess of red thread. You may be wondering, “Debbie, why did you use red thread to bind your book together? Was it because red threads represent the red string of destiny or fate in many east asian cultures including our own?” Well the answer is a lot more quotidian. I mainly had four spools of threads in my posession at the time of binding. I could have bound it with white, red, yellow, or green thread. However, I had a lot more of this red thread than the white, yellow and green threads. The white, yellow, and green had come from a pound store in London in a box of 12 spools for a pound, so you can imagine it seemed a little dodgy as well. The white would have been my first choice but i was almost out of it as white is often one’s first go-to colour for sewing things back together. But… I had lot of red thread because these had been cast-offs from a friend’s overzealous shopping trip at Ikea…

BUT HEY WHATEVER, I’VE MADE MY OWN BOOK!

Travelling Dreams and Sleep Paralysis

Travelling Dreams

Dream 1 – Rural Life: I dreamt I had gone to visit Valerie, my friend who had recently returned from Kazakhstan, who had somehow moved to Korea instead. I don’t know why I was in Korea. Valerie lived in a rural suburb in a big house. The floor was sandy inside the house, and outside, there was a donkey on the road and a covered cart with a mountain of giant white radishes on top. Val told me that she was moving out and if I was interested I could live there – it was an hour’s commute to Seoul and perhaps I could take over the rental. She told me the rent in a foreign currency’s number, and i took some time to calculate it in my head into something I understood. For some reason I simply understood it to be £200 per month which was very low so I said “why not!”, rationalising that I had reached a point in my life where I would love to live far away from the city so i could produce my own work in peace. However, when Valerie called her landlord, he said that he had other plans to build walls within the large space to make many rooms which he would rent out individually. Valerie said, “Oh no! I know i should never have mentioned that idea to him! Now he’s going to split up the space!” As the news broke, I also realised that for a moment there I had actually convinced myself out of living within a city. Imagine not being in a city, but in a place far away from civilisation?

Dream 2 – Airport Life: I dreamt I was stuck in a big airport, about to fly to London. There was a big concert inside for a thai skincare brand. They were using music to sell skincare products. I was stuck and I couldn’t find my way to the gates. I called up the concierge and told them of my difficulties in finding my gate, and that I was almost late for my flight. At this point, I realised that I didn’t know where I was going to stay in London. “Oh well! Its alright if my flight is delayed so I can go sort that out!” I thought to myself. But then the airport called me back and said “THE PLANE WILL WAIT FOR YOU! WE’RE SENDING SOMEONE TO PICK UP YOU NOW!” Their impeccable service would mean that I would get to London on time after all, but I still didn’t know where I would stay when I got there…  [I often get dreams of this nature; where I have begun to travel somewhere far but have been delayed, and then when the delay suddenly lifts and I can go on my way, I also suddenly realise that I have forgotten something very important that I should have tended to earlier…]

What is the meaning of this: I CAN’T WAIT FOR MY NEW PASSPORT TO COME SO THAT I CAN TRAVEL INSTEAD OF DREAMING ABOUT TRAVELING

Sleep Paralysis

I have been getting sleep paralysis and other peculiar disruptions of sleep. For me, these attacks seem to have increased over the last two years. I guess this is partially because I am quite a workaholic and I also have a habit of sleeping in a supine position. What happens is that I seem to have woken up but then I cannot move. Sometimes I can hear the sounds around me as well, sometimes its all woven in together – when I wake up I’m in the position that I fell asleep in but I can’t move. My hand might be outstretched with my glasses at my finger tips. At first its terrifying, as if you’ve been horribly paralysed, but after a number of attacks, I’ve found that wiggling my fingers and being patient and persistent in throwing myself out of this state eventually gets me out of it. Recently I watched Lost Highways – the part where the strange man comes up to Fred and tells him “Call your house. Ask me how I got inside” – I feel like this piece of dialogue from the film perfectly captures how I feel about the sleep paralysis. It is both surreal as well as uncanny.

What is the meaning of this: I THINK I WILL BE CUTTING CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL FROM MY DIET. AND NOT GOOGLING FOR SLEEP PARALYSIS LATE AT NIGHT BECAUSE ITS EVEN MORE SCARY AFTER YOU READ THE WIKIPEDIA POST ON THAT.

Temporal Displacement

I had a dream in which I was transported back to the year 2009. I was suddenly back at home, living at home in Singapore, and I was talking to S____ on the phone. I did not know how I had gotten to the past. It was horrible, because I felt as if I would have to relive all these intervening years again with the prior knowledge of what had come before. I knew that anything I said to S____ now was horrible because I knew what was going to happen eventually. I wondered if it would be insane to call P_____ if I had not yet met him at this point. It was utterly horrible. I tried to do all the things that they often say to do in order to test for lucid dreaming, like looking for marks on your hands or features on your body such as the small mole on my wrist. I pinched myself very hard and it felt so real. Worst of all, I didnt know if knowing the future would also affect the future from the past. In the end I began to dial M____’s number to ask him what time or date it was at his side because I thought maybe he might have the most accurate clock. Fortunately, while waiting for the call to connect, I woke up in the future or rather the present day.

What is the meaning of this: IF GIVEN THE CHANCE, I WOULD NOT LIKE TO TRAVEL BACK THROUGH TIME.

Effie is Changing the Fabric of Reality

Phone Conversation a few moments ago – unknown number dials me up:

“Hello.”
“Hello?”
“It’s me.”
“What do you mean, its me.”
“Don’t you remember me?”
“No, who is this?”
“ITS ME! U FORGOT ME?”
“Do I know you?”
“ITS ME! DON’T TELL ME YOU’VE FORGOTTEN ME!”
“Can you give me a clue?”
“YOUR VOICE HAS CHANGED! WHAT’S HAPPENED!”
“I’m bad at this guessing game, who are you?”
“ITS ME! OH MY GOD! YOU FORGOT ME! I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS! AND YOUR VOICE HAS CHANGED COMPLETELY!”
“Who is this? My voice has changed? What? Who is this?”
“OH MY GOD! EFFIE! YOU FORGOT ME! YOU FORGOT ME! EFFIE!”
“But I’m not Effie.”
(Pause)
“Oh.”
“My name is Debbie.”
“Have you always had this phone number?”
“Yes, since the first day. I’m sorry this isn’t Effie.”
“Oh. Ohhhh. OH…. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.”
“No wonder you don’t sound like Effie. For a moment there I thought Effie had changed since the last time I had seen her. It would be even more horrible if even her voice had changed and she had forgotten me completely.”