Stewart Wachs: Scrolling through Dreams

Stewart Wachs’ digital scrolls take their basic form from Japanese hanging scrolls. The techniques used to create them draw from computer-based composite photography. And their inspiration, from the dream state.

“This work started to emerge after two years into sleep deprivation from Parkinson’s Disease and dopamine agonist (a drug to treat the disease). That drug is known to trigger creativity in quite a number of people because it inhibits impulse control. Meanwhile the body has a hunger for the dream state. These images came out much like dreams. You can look at them and figure out what they mean on the face if they are not too fugitive. These pictures often hold inner meanings and can often be deciphered better by people around me.”

Wachs’ scrolls rely on layering, but he didn’t use Photoshop, as most people probably would, because it involved too many choices. Human impulse, he relates, wants to work with a smaller palette. He thus figured out other ways to create the desired effects, using only software native to the Mac at that time, including iMovie, iWeb and Preview.

“I was trying to enter dreams in a waking state. In the same way that a dream will throw you a big surprise and morph into one thing or another, these images have a similar way of evolving. The scrolls are my attempt to tame some of the phantasms of those waking dreams, which I call psychographics.”

Wachs came to Japan 29 years ago and spent 13 of those years as an associate editor for Kyoto Journal, a position from which he retired recently. Wanting to work on longer formats and larger pieces, he moved on to editing books. Will we see a book of these images? Perhaps. He is considering it. Here, though, they appear for the first time in print.






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