The Dream Machine

Together with my colleague Aaron Goldsman and Professor Kevin Young, I curated the exhibition “The Dream Machine: The Beat Generation & the Counterculture, 1940-1975.” This show ran from September 2017 to June 2018 at Emory University’s Schatten Gallery in the Robert W. Woodruff Library.

The exhibition reconsidered postwar literature and the ways it mirrored, predicted, and remade the culture around it, with special focus on the influential group known as “the Beats.” Pulling from the Rose Library’s rich literary collections, especially the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, the show rediscovered a number of fascinating countercultural writers and was the first major consideration of the Beats in the U.S. in nearly a decade.

I loved working on this project and exploring every facet of exhibition curation– artifact selection, label copy, design, installation, and programming. Emory’s wonderful exhibitions team Kathy Dixson, John Klingler, and Gretchen Warner were a huge help making this exhibition come to life.

Aaron and I at the opening of our exhibition.
Our title artifact: Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville’s Dreamachine.

Our exhibition takes its name from Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville’s Dreammachine, a device that uses stroboscopic light to stimulate “alpha waves” in the brain, neural signals associated with relaxation and reverie. To achieve the desired effect, the viewer is meant to sit directly in front of the device with closed eyes. As the paper column rotates on the record turntable, a light suspended within flashes through slits cut into the screen. The strobing light falls onto the viewer’s eyelids at a rate of roughly ten flashes per second, inducing a dream-like state.
Like so many artifacts of the Beat Generation, the Dreamachine combines an interest in experimental process with the desire to discover unrealized worlds.

This exhibition itself is a machine for dreaming: a vision of radical experiments in the realms of art, politics, and community.

Anne Waldman

Anne Waldman gave a wonderful reading at our opening. In her reading, she said “the archive listens into the margins.” I think that’s especially true at Emory, where education and access are essential parts of the archival mission.

“The archive listens into the margins.”

Anne Waldman

It was wonderful to see students and visitors make use of the exhibition all year long. I led curators’ tours and helped classes craft assignments around the exhibition. In the spring of 2018, I organized a poetry reading on Beats and Buddhism. This reading interspersed Buddhist poems in their original languages with Beat works inspired by this rich tradition. It was important to me to bringing a diversity of voices and perspectives into the exhibition space.


Student engagement at the Tank Full of Dreams reading

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