A Hong Kong Artist Is Using A.I. to Connect People Who Are Having Similar Dreams

The participatory project uses A.I. to match people according to the experiences of their subconscious.

Participants log their dreams as part of Doreen Chan's HalfDream (2020-) at Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival. Photo courtesy of Doreen Chan.

Hearing people describe their dreams can be boring, but what if those nighttime escapades were eerily similar to your own? Common themes include running late, being chased, befriending celebrities, or suddenly falling, but do these reveal something about our subconscious selves? A new art project halfdream.org invites users to connect with those who have similar dreams and find out.

The participatory project was first dreamt up by artist Doreen Chan in 2020, in response to the anxiety-inducing, isolating effects of the pandemic as well as political upheaval in her hometown of Hong Kong and Black Lives Matter protests across the globe. “During this time I had extremely intense and vivid dreams every night,” she told Artnet News.

“Dreams aren’t the product of our decisions and efforts, but something personal we can’t control. People who may vehemently disagree with each other on social or ethical issues when awake could dream similarly. Would finding out that their opposition has the same dream change their perspective?”

Halfdream consists not only of a website that invites submissions but also of interactive workshops and a small exhibition of previously shared dreams at Para Site, the leading contemporary art space in Hong Kong, which runs through July 30.

Users logging dreams online are first invited to reflect on their memories during a short meditative exercise before answering a few simple questions like “were you yourself?” and “were there any other characters?” After describing the dream in more detail, users can attach photos, videos or audio clips that are relevant to the dream or even draw an illustration of what happened.

The website promises to anonymously match the user with any other dreamer that shares a similar dream using A.I. If both users are happy to proceed, they will be invited to take part in daily exercises that will reveal any shared experiences or perspectives that may have led to their subconscious to have the same midnight musings. Finally, the users will be given the option to reveal their true identity and perhaps even forge a real life connection with their “dreamate.”

“Dreams contain a lot of deep feelings; they can unfold deep meanings while not limited by country borders, languages, or skin color, and by sharing them anonymously, people can be linked by something deeper,” said Chan. “These initial exchanges may evolve into a comfortable channel for self-expression and peer support.”

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