Clara Benador is the artist who sails in a David Lynch’s dreamscape. Inside, art is everywhere. This upcoming Friday, October 16th, she’ll be opening Mise en Avant, an exhibition of pictures and poems in delusion at the bookshop/gallery 0fr in Paris. The venue is a cabinet des curiosités with piles of books looking at you. The walls mirror sequences of Clara’s character. For the first time, she presents her book, Falling Dreams, which she’ll be signing after day time and before nighttime. She opens her round eyes to sleep with a vinyl spinning gyroscope.
Let’s start from the beginning. When did you start to place your thoughts on paper?
Since the age of 12, I carried a notebook in my pocket wherever I went. I filled the pages with scribbles and single words. Two years ago, I made peace with my nightmares by evacuating my demons in writing.
I'm curious to know what is the first poem that made you feel?
Venus Anadyomène by Arthur Rimbaud – “Les reins portent deux mots gravés: Clara Venus” (kidneys have two engraved words: Clara Venus). It shattered me when I read the verses at the age of 14. The wording was sharp. I had a direct perception of Venus. Ever since, I have treasured her image as an ideal of what beauty and purity should not be.
Tell us a bit about your creative process, how many hours a day do you write?
When I am in the countryside, I begin to write in the dawn while the city lights are hectic. I remember the novel La Ronde et Autres Faits Divers, by author J. M. G. Le Clézio, which is the story of a girl on a motorcycle. She is driving on the pavement while other motorcycles are spinning too until the final state when the city imprisons them. I can write for hours before I forget that time exists.
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This upcoming Friday, October 16th, you’ll be presenting your book Failing Dreams at 0fr, in Paris, through an exhibition and film screening. Tell us more about it.
The exhibition shows an avant-garde rarity in dark frames – the images of my recent works, rooms for the imagination. I applaud the curious by signing my book – a mélange of photography, illustrations and poetry. A surreal clown juggling with words. Moony, riddled, it’s raining champagne. Look at the visuals. And start all over from the beginning. Falling dreams as autumn leaves.
I will organize the exhibition together with my friend and director Alba Fredenand. She will present a documentary film that follows me through a dream circle in a dark room. Coming from Spain, Alba arrived in Paris two years ago. On our first meeting, we both fell in love artistically as four eyes exploring the world.
Both the presentation and the book showcase the different ways you use to express yourself. Why do you want people to sense photography, film and poetry at once?
That combination is my form of communication. In the end, it’s all about living scopophilia for every subject. The beauty of the look can be expressed through words, the gaze and a pencil stroke.
Let’s deepen into Falling Dreams. When were you falling in a dream?
During a lucid dream, I had the feeling I was falling. It was not a nightmare because the sensations were different. I perceived I had gained ownership of my dream body – connecting my brain with my physique. During the whole fall, when I fell from heaven into hell, everything was round. I would usually wake up with the feeling of dying, but this time, the dream wasn’t over.
At some point, I realized that I was stuck in a washing machine. Round and round and round and round and round, spinning like a hamster. Two days before my dream, I had left my phone in the pocket of my jeans in the washing machine. The door was locked when I noticed; it was too late. My phone was drowning.
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Sound can be essential for artists in their creative process. What sound makes you become ‘poetic’?
Classical music. Toccata and Fugue in D minor, an organ delight by Bach. My affection for music and for the humans who play it – the first time I fell in love, it was next to the black and white keys, with a pianist. He played a delightful storm by Beethoven.
Where do we go, when we fall asleep?
Stimulated by Siegmund Freud, Surrealism and Expressionism introduced dream imagery into visual art. For me, dreams are an intriguing and disturbing ground for creative expression. Opening the door to your nightmares takes away their frightening aspect: ‘plus peur du néant’ (no longer afraid of nothingness). Seduced by your own unconsciousness, we reach out to ‘la tendre tentation de l’oublie’ (the sweet temptation of oblivion). A lucid dream can give you senses for the things that are untouchable.
Regarding those senses, how do dreams taste? And how do they smell?
Usually, I have my notebook near my bedhead so I can write down a dream when I wake up. Dreams taste like your mouth, but I remember more the sensations rather than smells or tastes. And they smell like the thousands of samples of perfumes inside my shiny fake leather back. Smell is essential to me because it builds memories that can freeze a moment or a particular time. Perfumes are where love is stored.
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Let’s go back in time a little bit. Do you remember what was your first dream as a kid?
Growing up, I wanted to stop looking like a boy, so I wanted to turn my curly hair straight to resemble a girl in my school. I admired her from the other side of the class. She was the beauty and the sadness of the world; she looked like a Bengal kitten.
Which animals do you meet most often in dreams?
I see humans with cat’s behaviour. It’s all about how they behave, their minds… they don’t have a proper body or physical appearance. They are souls floating around. Sometimes there are eyes or a reflection, but mostly it’s the aura that is present.
Speaking of auras, if every individual emanates a distinct atmosphere, what colour would describe yours?
My parents chose the name Clara because of the Latin definition, which is ‘brilliant.’ Light and bright. Floating fabrics, silk and transparent. Discovering erotic, what is hidden is intriguing.
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Back to the animals you meet in your dreams. A sea slug comes through the door. What does she say and why is she there?
The sea slug left her husband to become a strong, self-reliant female being. She told me that she was preparing for her new life. She wants to wear a school miniskirt and fishnet stockings – a divine manifestation. She wants the freedom to express herself. The sea slug wants to be the captain of communication in the network. Now she is sitting on top of the net.
Do you dream with your eyes open or closed?
I never want to talk about it because I can’t close my eyes – maybe because they’re too big? I remember hearing my friends say that it was amusing and frightening to look at me when I looked like I was dead – when in reality, I was sleeping. To remedy this situation, I currently sleep with a blindfold that covers my eyes.
If you would turn your eyeballs towards the inside of your head, photograph what do you see?
A clown with a sarcastic laugh. According to Descartes, I think, therefore I exist. All chores in praise of confusion. What one sees is a part of reality if one can apply the deductions.
What cannot be seen through photography?
A film is alive. Photography is dead. This is why I take two seconds from each photo as a theatrical tableau. The projections are part of my previous exhibitions. I name them ‘living pictures.’
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Why is photography logical?
I get tangled up with the oldest cameras. Photography is logical in its mechanics. As soon as you click, it turns into an enigma echoed by the sound of emptiness. What do you hear?
What objects do you give a second glance?
A gaze in the middle of an empty alley after a raging storm. The footpaths are soaked. You can smell the rain from a block away. In front of you, two circular blank objects; I am bound to take a second look. ‘Qui voit qui?’ (who sees whom?).
Which worlds have you seen in your dreams?
My dreams are similar to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or the narrative poetry of Dante Alighieri. Actually, the first page of Fallen Dreams illustrates the writing of Fall Fame in an endless replay. Alice keeps falling and falling until she arrives in another time-lapse moment. I’ve always appreciated the figure of Alice, but even more so her fall, when her long, golden hair floats in the air.
There is an image that keeps getting back to me about Edie Sedgwick, a fragile pearl and muse of Andy Warhol in the 1970s. From a sorrowful childhood, she ended up in the factory of drugs and dreams, thus becoming a superstar rising and falling fast.
To finish, what is your power in lucid dreams?
A week ago, a new neighbour moved to the flat upstairs. She’s a young student who sings every evening, each day becoming louder. Last night, I fell asleep while writing, and I woke up to her repetitive melody. I eased and fell into a lucid dream. I was screaming to Luke, my partner, but he couldn’t hear me. I was shaking. Suddenly, a flashlight hit my face. I could see him [Lukas] touching my shoulders and telling me to wake up because ‘she was uncontrollable.’ I woke up. Lukas had saved me from this dreadful dream. I felt guilty that he considered me ‘uncontrollable,’ but then I realized he was referring to the new neighbour, who was now jumping on the floor, so we called the police.
If you’re able to see your hands or a time indicator in your dreams, this is the first step to control them. And that night, I saw my hands.
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