Bloomberg News

Strangers Sleep Together for $108 at Rubin Museum ‘Dream-Over’

October 25, 2011

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- A sought-after seat Saturday night was on the floor of New York’s Rubin Museum of Art, where some 80 of us gathered with sleeping bags and air mattresses for the 13-hour, sold-out “Dream-over.”

For $108 each, prospective dreamers were assigned an artwork, which we pondered from a few feet away while sitting and, theoretically, sleeping. (The seven-year-old Rubin is dedicated to art of the Himalayas.)

The next morning we discussed our dreams with each other and with psychology and psychoanalysis graduate students (“Dream Gatherers”).

It was the Rubin’s second sleep-over for adults and involved Freud, Buddha, event marketing and snoring. Some highlights:

8 p.m. A staff member stores our shoes in the coat check. Participants have been instructed to bring pajamas, a robe, slippers and something soft to sleep on. Tables near the entrance are organized by the five floors to which we’re assigned. Sweats, yoga outfits and other loose fitting clothes are the norm.

8:10 p.m. Ray Warman, a corporate lawyer and poet, is headed to the fifth floor, as I am.

“I’m a good dreamer and I love the Rubin,” he says, seated on a chair in a lotus position. “I have pages upon pages of all the dreams that have been significant to me. You can’t force a dream and you can’t deny it.”

8:15 p.m. One-by-one we’re led upstairs. Cindy Sibilsky, a Rubin docent who’s a dancer and theater presenter developing “Pinocchio: A Fantasy of Pleasures” for off-Broadway, finds my spot next to an artwork, “Self-Ordination and Practice of Austerities.”

The pigment on cloth is from the 18th century and depicts the “renunciation by the prince who will become the Buddha,” with flowing robes of red and orange, and bothersome boys interrupting his meditation.

“This is like coming to church,” Sibilsky says. “If I can provide delightful inspiration, it’s meaningful to me.”

8:50 p.m. Melissa Faulner, who works in licensing for a publisher, does a yoga tree pose in front of her assigned artwork.

“I slept in a museum once, the Orlando Science Center, when I was a Girl Scout,” she says. “It’s fun to do something that feels off-limits. I hope I don’t have a sex dream and have to talk to someone about it.”

9:21 p.m. Participants gather in a basement theater for a talk and meditation session led by Lama Lhanang Rinpoche. The lama, born in Tibet and living in San Diego, discusses “dream yoga” and “sleeping meditation.”

A woman in the audience complains that she can’t choose her dreams as she did as a child.

“The child has a very pure mind,” the lama responds. “They remember past lives.”

10:20 p.m. In a discussion among the 18 fifth-floor campers, Warman recalls a dream he had in November, 1996. He was flying in a helicopter over a lake, seeing people holding placards that read “Welcome Home.” A married father of two at the time, he says he realized days later that he was gay.

10:25 p.m. Matthew von Unwerth calls dreams, “a work of literature by, for, and about you.” He’s a therapist training at New York’s Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.

10:51 p.m. Crackers, strawberries and grapes are on offer in the cafe.

“I’m really hoping that my dream doesn’t involve work,” says Alicia Glavin, a hospital administrator.

11:40 p.m. On the fifth floor, featuring the exhibit “Once Upon Many Times: Legends and Myths in Himalayan Art,” Dawn Eshelman, the Rubin’s programming manager, distributes ear plugs.

11:45 p.m. Sibilsky sits on the floor and tells me a bedtime story she adapted, about the Buddha’s previous life as a rabbit.

12:01 a.m. Lights out, only to go back up, because the docents haven’t finished telling their stories.

12:45 a.m. Snoring on all floors. Also, constant beeps from an elevator. I insert earplugs.

4:15 a.m. As the temperature seems to dip below 50 degrees, I wake up and can’t get back to sleep. That’s a problem because I can’t remember any dream. What will I say when the dream gatherer comes around in two hours?

6 a.m. Adi Avivi approaches my air mattress expectantly. I have zip, and resist the urge to share my daydream as I lie awake half that night: that I was in a warm, quiet private room.

6:33 a.m. A husky 56-year-old man named Alan says he dreamt of an image of himself as a baby, wrapped in a yellow jacket, with his parents.

“The dream wasn’t part of a narrative, which is weird, because we’re on a narrative floor.”

6:44 a.m. Faulner says she didn’t have a dream she can remember, but the lama’s talk affected her. “Normally I’m a huge worrier,” she says. “When I was awake I was calm.”

8:05 a.m. After breakfast, which includes tsampa -- Himalayan hot cereal -- Warman says that he had felt different times in his life converge.

“There was this wonderful sense of community from all the dreamers here.”

8:20 a.m. Tim McHenry, the Rubin’s programming producer, thanks the dreamers for attending.

“Please tell your friends,” he says. “We do want to be a little better known.”

8:33 a.m. The therapist, von Unwerth, asks the fifth-floor campers how many remembered their overnight dreams. Two-thirds raise their hands.

8:43 a.m. Glavin, the hospital administrator, says she dreamt she witnessed her childhood home in flames.

“It was like fireworks,” she says. “It was a good dream. I never had that dream before.”

Rubin Museum of Art, at 150 W. 17th St. Information: +1-212-620-5000; www.rmanyc.org/

--Editors: Manuela Hoelterhoff, Daniel Billy.

To contact the reporter of this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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