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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a different world? Perhaps an alternate reality? Well, we already do. Sort of. At least, while we’re sleeping. Theorized by scientists and philosophers alike, used to fuel their creativity by many, and as different and varied as they can be, dreams have been a source of debate and inspiration since the dawn of times. Now, writers and editors Charmaine Li and Effie Efthymiadi will take you on a journey through the world of dreams with Oneiric Space, an online magazine that aims to explore the world that unravels when we close our eyes through art, science, psychology, and more.
Charmaine, Effie, first things first: who are you individually and how do you know each other?
Charmaine: I’m originally from Toronto and have been living in Berlin for nearly seven years now. Currently, I work as a freelance writer and editor, covering mostly art, design and technology. Effie and I were first in touch via email because of some articles I wrote for an online magazine she was editing a while back, but interestingly enough, we didn’t actually meet in person until three years ago.
Effie: I’m also a freelance writer and editor, and based between Berlin and Athens. During my time as an editor at Freunde von Freunden, Charmaine was one of our contributing writers so we often chatted via email. We finally met through mutual friends in Berlin, and after seeing each other a couple more times one-on-one, we really hit it off. 
Your new project, Oneiric Space, focuses on people’s dreams and delves into topics such as “capturing the realm between wakefulness and sleep, showing the therapeutic value of dreams, recreating lucid dreams with 3D rendering, and taking a holistic approach to dreams.” How did you come up with this idea? Did you have a specific dream that made you want to create this platform/publication?
Charmaine: Although I had vivid dreams as a child, it wasn’t until I had an episode of sleep paralysis at the age of 20 when I really became curious about this realm. Sleep paralysis is a state where you feel awake but your body is unable to move. My first experience with it was terrifying, mostly because a figure with long hair and no face was hovering over my waist. I won’t get into this too much since you can read more about this in my interview with writer and performing artist Oana Tudoran on the site. But looking back on this, I realized I simply didn’t have the language to talk about the experience. I remember googling something along the lines of ‘demon nightmare waist’ before learning that sleep paralysis was an actual thing.
Considering we all dream every night, it seemed strange to me that many of us were dismissing this part of our lives, often because of its irrational and complex nature. Not only that, but there’s also a stigma in our culture that talking about dreams is boring and self-indulgent. As I began to talk about my dreams with friends more, it became clear to me that there weren’t enough resources or conversations about the topic in our current cultural landscape. This, coupled with a deep urge to create something with dreams, led to the idea of creating a space to explore our dreams and the unconscious through an interdisciplinary lens.

How did you both decide to team up and work on this idea? Describe a bit how it all started and how it has evolved until the launch of Oneiric Space.
Charmaine: For the past ten years, I’ve been writing down my dreams upon waking nearly every day. It’s commonly accepted that events from the day can end up in dreams, but I noticed it seemed to happen the other way around as well – frequently, my dreams would permeate or influence my waking life. Although I had been steeped in Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s work for some time, I was itching to get a better sense of contemporary perspectives on the topic.
After a couple of years of trying to delve deeper into dreams, I noticed how incredibly fragmented the coverage of the topic is online. I found that articles about dreams usually fell into three broad categories. One: the occasional science articles about dreams in mainstream media outlets. Two: the sporadic articles on various art and culture publications featuring creatives who talk about dreams as a source of creative inspiration. And three: the very niche or esoteric sort of dream articles typically found on websites that look like they were designed back when the Internet was born.
And the question I kept thinking about was: why can’t we find different perspectives on dreams in one place? When I told Effie about the idea of interviewing people across disciplines like art, science, psychology, and philosophy to explore their relationships to dreams, she was super enthusiastic and encouraged me to continue working on it. Since our discussions about dreams brought us closer and we have such a similar approach to dealing with the topic, it was only natural that Effie later jumped on board to help launch Oneiric Space as an editor and shape the overall direction of the online magazine.
People have very different experiences when it comes to dreams. Some remember them while others forget them the moment they wake up. A few others even have vivid dreams where they are in control. And, of course, dreams can range from realistic to surreal, to self-fulfiling, erotic, or horrifying. What is the most memorable/remarkable dream you’ve ever had (that you remember and can speak of)?
Effie: I’ve had many memorable dreams that had had a strong influence on my emotional state and invaded my thoughts during my waking hours. One of the most vivid ones happened quite recently and has left a deep mark on me; I think about it very often. I dreamt that I went to this choreographer’s studio in hopes of being healed through kinetic repetition – healed from what, I don’t know exactly. When I met the choreographer, I couldn’t articulate what I wanted to say and I started being a bit awkward and frigid, unable to structure my sentences. The choreographer told me that for the first session, she would move and lead my body herself; all I needed to do was let go.
So she started lifting my arms, bending my waist, pulling me from one side, dropping and catching me. She then helped me into a position where I was just kneeling on the floor, back curved bending forward, forehead hovering over the floor. She asked me to close my eyes and cupped my ears with her hands. Then, the most magical, strange thing happened. With her hands over my ears, she started tapping her middle fingers and all of a sudden, I could hear Debussy’s Clair de Lune playing through my ears. I started crying and felt an inexplicable vastness, a sweet melancholy. And the strangest thing is that I’ve associated this particular piece with certain milestone moments in my life. I’ll never forget this dream – I felt profoundly cleansed that day!
Charmaine: I’ve noticed the more I engage with my dreams – through writing them down, talking about them or painting the imagery –, the more I remember them, which is why there have been so many dreams that I remember vividly and that have left an impact on my waking life. One that I often go back to is the nightmare that seems to have been a catalyst for my move from Toronto to Berlin. It emerged during a period when I was incredibly anxious about my future and experiencing inner conflicts that I found difficult to articulate.
One night, I had a long, intense dream in which I got shot in the back of my neck by two women in combat uniforms and then saw my lifeless body floating in a bathtub of blood. I woke up with tears streaming down my face and tremors of fear pulsating through my body. That day, the weight of the dream followed me everywhere. I felt deeply unwell and it became clear that I needed to change something in my life. It’s a really long story, but basically, this was one of the crucial events that led to my move to Berlin. Looking back on it, the dream seems to have brought to consciousness an aspect of my own being that I had closed out of my waking experience.
One night, I had a long, intense dream in which I got shot in the back of my neck by two women in combat uniforms and then saw my lifeless body floating in a bathtub of blood. I woke up with tears streaming down my face and tremors of fear pulsating through my body. That day, the weight of the dream followed me everywhere. I felt deeply unwell and it became clear that I needed to change something in my life. It’s a really long story, but basically, this was one of the crucial events that led to my move to Berlin. Looking back on it, the dream seems to have brought to consciousness an aspect of my own being that I had closed out of my waking experience.
Charmaine: We’ve created a list of people who write, create artworks, conduct research, work with or have spoken about dreams that we would love to interview for the mag. Since Oneiric Space is very much about shedding light on how people approach and experience dreams in different contexts, it’s important for us to select interviewees coming from an array of disciplines and backgrounds. For the launch, we featured interviews with an artist, a Jungian psychoanalyst, a designer, a photography duo and a scientist who also create artworks, which was the best mix we could manage considering the time limitations. As Oneiric Space develops though, our goal is to include more diverse voices and views on the topic.

“Because dreams exist in a space beyond the structures governed by our waking consciousness, it was really important to us that Oneiric Space aimed to mirror the nonsensical, fluid and multi-layered nature of this realm.” Charmaine
One of the first artists to be featured in Oneiric Space is Ukrainian photography duo Synchrodogs, who work together to create a bridge between reality and fiction. What about them caught your attention?
Charmaine: I found out about their work while working as an editor for an online magazine nearly five years ago and was immediately drawn to their eye-catching and surreal landscapes. So when I started working on Oneiric Space, they were one of the first interview candidates that came to mind. I was especially interested in learning about how the duo engages with their dreams on a day-to-day basis and how this plays a role in their creative process.
You both have created this online magazine to share more information in regards to dreams and find deeper meanings behind them. What is your ultimate goal/hope for Oneiric Space?
Charmaine: Considering that many discussions surrounding dreams still reference Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung, both of whom wrote books on this topic well over fifty years ago, I hope we uncover more contemporary perspectives about this universal human phenomenon and make this topic more accessible to a wider audience. More than anything, I’d say our goals are to spark more dialogue about dreams and broaden the conversation on the topic.
Effie: Personally, I prefer approaching this project in a more naive, less goal-driven manner. Everything else we do in our professional life heavily relies on set targets and measurable successes, and that’s why I’d like to allow this project to find its own journey without trying to mould it into a particular shape. I have a lot of trust in Oneiric Space and the fact that it will reveal to us how to develop it as we ourselves grow along with it.
What has been the biggest challenge you have come across in creating this magazine?
Charmaine: Like many independent publishing projects out there, the biggest challenge right now is developing a long-term strategy that allows us to continue running a website and publishing interviews with a customized web design regularly in a sustainable fashion. Right now, we’re trying out Patreon as a way to raise funds to help pay for the development of our editorial content and supporting our contributing designers and artists. It’s one way for those interested in the project to see new exclusive content and updates before anyone else. By contributing as little as one dollar per month, patrons will enable us to dedicate more time to creating by helping cover the many costs incurred in producing the online magazine as well as help us remain ad-free and independent. However, we’re still experimenting and will be looking into other ways to support the project in the coming year.

Your website is very detailed: from the way you search on it down to the font of each word. It has a very artistic and creative vibe to it. How have you related the theme of dreams and their deep meanings to the design of your website?
Charmaine: Because dreams exist in a space beyond the structures governed by our waking consciousness, it was really important to us that Oneiric Space aimed to mirror the nonsensical, fluid and multi-layered nature of this realm. To turn this idea into a reality, we collaborated with Studio Push, a multidisciplinary studio founded by Emilie Vizcano and Pierre Monge. We wanted a website that retains some elements of a magazine but also strives to be slightly disorienting, kind of like moving through a dream where time, space and our sense of self can be distorted – and Studio Push did a great job of making that happen.
Effie: Another important part is that since dream experiences are so specific to the individual, each of our interviews is designed to correspond to the content of the conversation and the dream-related material provided by the interviewee. For instance, Oana Tudoran sent us an audio file of a dream she recorded upon waking, which you can hear on her interview page. Artist and scientist Fariba Bogzaran sent us paintings inspired by her dreams, and Studio Brasch sent us 3D renderings of his lucid dreams. In that sense, each interview is a ‘sui generis’, a stand-alone cosmos, unlike anything else that exists on the site.
You only speak about dreams, but they’re intrinsically tied to nightmares as well. Is there a place for them in Oneiric Space?
Effie: When we talk about dreams, we talk about the sum of images, ideas, and sensations occurring in one’s mind during sleep. A dream can be a positive experience, a negative experience, and everything in-between if we have to put a label on it. Oneiric Space deals with all kinds of such experiences, so that includes nightmares as well, of course.
The platform is very new. What are your plans for the future? Can we expect a print publication at some point?
Effie: At the moment, I think an online presence suits the nature of this project much better. The dreamworld is something entirely ungraspable and fluid, and therefore it might feel weird and limiting to express it through a tactile material like paper. But who knows? We might find a print format that feels right. I do like the fact that Oneiric Space as a website is basically just ether.
Regarding our plans for the future, we’re thinking of moving beyond the digital realm and starting ephemeral events and workshops around the topic of dreams with visiting guests from a variety of disciplines. It would be so nice to build up a community of people in real life who are connected to the topic and open to exploring this often-overlooked aspect of our lives. But it’s all just ideas for now!

Words
Anahita Jafary
Portrait
Julius Dettmer

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