member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Avoid Nightmares

In yesterday's post, I talked about how objects could be infused with such meaning from our lives and from their own creation and history that they might directly and powerfully affect our own actions and abilities. The artwork of Remedios Varo almost always has an undercurrent of such beliefs in its assemblage, beliefs she staunchly declared herself to hold. I recently came across some of her writings, in Cartas, suenos, y otros textos de Remedios Varo, compiled and edited by Isabel Castells, and I discovered that she carried out experiments in the spirit of these beliefs not only in her paintings, but in all areas of her life. Amongst her writings, there were recipes, using pieces of clothing, masks, rocks, glass, spices, and a few food items, along with very specific mixing and preparing instructions in order to replace bad dreams with happy or erotic ones:

Pluck the chickens, carefully preserving the feathers. Put two liters of distilled water or rainwater to boil, without salt but with peeled and minced garlic. Let it boil at a low heat. While the birds are cooking, align the Oriental bed from northeast to southeast and let it rest with the window open. Close the window after half an hour and place the red brick below the left leg underneath the headboard (northeast). Let it rest. While the bed is resting, grate the strong root directly over the pot, attentively keeping your hands consistently heated from the steam. Stir and let it boil. Four kilos of honey should then be spread over the sheets of the bed. Take the chicken feathers and scatter them over the honeyed sheets. Lie on the bed carefully....(my translation)

So part of the recipe is in the correct placement of objects--a brick, a bed, a window...Here’s hoping the same could be done with found feathers and while boiling cabbage, for the sake of vegetarians.
And there’s much more in the book. There are her dreams, examples of her automatic writing, ideas for paintings, and a tongue-in-cheek record of a very important archaeological discovery, in very stuffy academic tones complete with bits of invented Latin, of prehistoric human bones which showed that we once were wheeled...

Homo Rodans

...complete with photos of the found and assembled bones.

This is an appeal: please make this book available again! It is out of print, but so, so fascinating...


  1. Your blog imparts so much knowledge in such an easy, engaging manner, I am eager for more. I know this sounds silly but the air feels lighter, as if everything is clearer. Varo's recipe amazes. I imagine the 4 kilos of honey are to counter-act the hostile dreams. The feathers to catch them?? It's also amazing how Varo's writings about placement correspond to Feng Shui ... everybody can't be wrong!

  2. Very interesting Zoe. I didn't know about Remedios Varo, but I knew about the existing "good sleep theories". Someone tried to give a scientific explanation for the recommended disposition of the bed that seems so important to avoid nightmares. It seems that the Earth magnetic field and its force lines could affect the celebral activity and, then, affect our sleep...
    Interesting recipe, really. Maybe difficult to put into practice. It seems a ceremony to chase away any negative influences...
    Glad to come and know about such points of view.

  3. Fascinating indeed Zoe. A recipe of dreams sublimely magical!

  4. I can't imagine any other way, other than 'carefully', of lying on a bed that was in that predicament!
    A great post... and it would be lovely if that book were reprinted.