zbyněk baladrán cv

Diderot’s Dream

video installation,
two full hd videos (11’05” and 2’24”) on black transparent screen

Diderot’s Dream? To paraphrase the philosopher’s celebrated title of the text, “This is not a Story”, this is not Diderot’s dream. It could be Baladrán’s dream, but it is not his either. Or someone else’s? Who is dreaming, then? What is a dream? How to describe it? Let us begin in a roundabout way. If we ask in general who is dreaming, it could be anyone: that is, everyone. The living and the dead. Past and future ones. Definitions of dreaming fall short and offer only a partial explanation. A dream may be a condensed field of thought. The better we process things while not sleeping, supposedly the less we dream, but the greater the areas that our thoughts have never strayed in. We create our lives in conditions that we have not chosen. Nonetheless, we have at least partial control over that life. What is a dream? Is it a stockpile of images and recurrent hereditary patterns? Again, who is dreaming? Is it an endless multitude of subjects, discourses and politics? Can we determine reliably where the dream begins and ends? The boundaries between the dream and waking consciousness are not clear. Reality eroded in continuity. Nothing in that is changed by the rationalization that the explanation of dreams is subjected to. Our social situation does not improve our dreams. It is routinely said today that the dream reveals the hidden meanings of the waking state. Maybe so. There is no recourse other than to enquire as we go. The answers are not established once and for all; they must be sought repeatedly. We are the ones who are here; there is nothing and no one else here. If we relate the words of Diderot’s denial to any behavior, the paradox to which it gives rise may help us towards a better understanding of what our dreams are and whether dreamwork is not merely a construction of our inner world, devoid of the ability to change the real one. This is not Diderot’s dream, but Baladrán’s dream. Who is dreaming? What dreams are they? Where do they come from? What do they say? And what of it?


Part a: Aphasia

-When is it going to start?

I can’t wait.

-It’s already started.


-Well, at the beginning.

-But I thought it would be a dream.

-The dream started long since.

-So I’m not conscious?

-Why wouldn’t you be? You are. But the dream has begun.

-That which we regard as the history of society is merely the incomplete history of one moment.

-Why that chemical movement?

-Will you allow me to jump time by several thousand years?

-Why not? Time is nothing to nature.

-You agree, then, that I can let our sun extinguish?

-Those are your words?

-No, they belong to the dream.

-Then the disaster has already happened…

-Long since. But now it is necessary to go against that fatalism, to accommodate one’s choice.

-To recognize what a dream is.

-There are languages that have been forgotten. There are utterances that are no longer intelligible.

There are societies that no longer exist. Everything that was recorded about them has vanished. The only possibility of seeing them again is to reinvent them.

-Why do you mean by ‘invent’?

-Invention is another word for the labour of dreams.

-But then it does not exist! OK, what does this nonexistent society of yours look like, and what do the individual beings look like?

Are they the same as us? Here on Earth or on other planets?

-For example, humanoid polyps on Jupiter or Saturn. People who reproduce by mitosis. A person dividing into an infinite number of atomic people who first pupate, then tear their cocoons and fly away like moths. A human society, a whole region inhabited by the specks of one person! When a person divides into an infinite number of individual people, then it must be less unpleasant to die there. The loss is easily compensated for, which causes little grief.

-How do you know?

-Let’s look at something else, for example at this shapeless pile. This is a good example.

-But that’s my head!

-All of your head?

-Each thing is more or less any other thing.

What is a being?

-The sum of certain tendencies.

-What is life?

-Life is a sequence of actions and reactions.

-Is that not too archaic a notion?

-Offer me a more current one please.

-This, for example. Look!

-What is it?

-It’s your head.

-All of my head?


-No, wait! I can explain it to you. Picture a spider…

There are threads everywhere. On the surface of your body there is not a single place they do not lead to. And a spider has nested in one part of your head, in your cerebral membrane. If some atom vibrates the thread, the spider is roused, is disconcerted, and either flees or runs up to it. In the middle of its web it receives reports of everything that is happening in any part of the abode it has spun for itself.

-Interesting. Do you have a different model?

-OK, imagine a set of circuits, tightly organized and interconnected. There are sensors leading from them…

-You mean a computer? That really up to date, but on the other hand it helps understanding even less. Don’t try DNA either; there are lots of similar descriptions.

-Then take, for example, the shrieks you make. I understand them. They are words and sentences that make sense. But think how some foreigner doesn’t understand them at all. Does he therefore regard you as less than he?

-Surely not!

-But you do that.

-Our society is kneaded from debris. It seems simple to make from inert substances crumbs that become the foundation stone of the construction of everything we see around us. We understand the essence of matter. When we recognize the usefulness of at least part of it, we crumble it and use it in a new mixture.

-What about, say, foreigners?

-Yes, even they can be used.

-Would it be possible to treat even me like that?


-Are you talking of work?

-I’m talking of power.

-The flow of time engenders everything possible.

It generates some strange compound.

-Look this way.


-What are they doing?

-It’s not entirely clear. Are they moving?

-I think you’re looking the wrong way.

Look once more. Maybe unfocus a little.

-Still nothing. It’s just grinding a little. Do you mean how it’s twisting?

-A bit more to the right.




-You’re looking the right way.

-I hope it’s not what I think it is.

-Yes, you’re seeing it correctly.

-It never occurred to me you were that hard to satisfy.

-Yes, I am. In the beginning I saw how others do it and I did as they did, even a bit better, because I’m more candid and thick-skinned, a better comedian, hungrier and with better lungs.

I have flexibility in my backside and my own way of hunching my back, raising and dropping my shoulders, spreading my fingers, bowing my head, squinting my eyes. I can be amazed, as if hearing from heaven a divine voice. And that is flattering.

-Very well. Let each of us approach it from a slightly different point, one by those means and the other by different means. But you boil everything down into one thing. Think up something different, and not just arms-cylinder, legs-cylinder, neck-cylinder, head-ball. That’s boring.

Diderot’s dream

Part b: Repressed memory

-Cracks in our memory reveal what the labour of dreams tries to conceal.

-The whole mass of matter is composed of tiny bodies. Each body has little feet and claws. These little bodies cling together with their little feet and create long vines of various shapes. What would happen if one of the little bodies were to decide to bite another that it was clinging to? It would create so many reactions in the whole vine, the bodies would start pinching each other and everything would start teeming, moving, changing position and shape. The humming and buzzing would amplify. Anyone who had never seen such a thing would see a being with five- or six-hundred heads and a thousand or twelve hundred legs!

-What are you talking about?

-About possibilities.

-And I about abusing the labour of dreams.