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Experiment With Dreams





Book by Thomas Liljenberg and Leif Elggren, Stockholm 1996. A correspondence. 230 p. Offset and photo copies. Size 150 x 210 mm. ISBN 91-87066-12-2 (FE No. 79)

”The texts are hysterically funny…” (Kenneth Goldsmith; New York Press, 2000)

”You won’t belive this book, this conceptual approach to dreams. It’s a wonder.” (Umbrella Magazine, vol. 20 no.1, 1999)

”Experiment with dreams catalogues the authors’ dreams over a two year period. These dreams soon became a discernable pattern, an intention. The pair interpreted their dream visions onto paper – the letters to the rich and famoues, people with power and influence, institutions of repute, (The Pope, Paul McCartney, William Gibson, Michael jackson, The Museum of Moderna Art etc). As you read through the letters you can discern the pattern, the path the dreamers are following. At times hilarious, disgusting, humiliating, boring, happy or just plain rude… A truly original experiment, and better still a superbly imaginative work.” (Immerse 001, London 1997)

”The idiosyncratic Swedish artists Leif Elggren and Thomas Liljenberg have released a challenging but hilarious CD and book project from Firework of Sweden. The pair sent letters to pop, art and political dignitaries all over the world – from President Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Pope John II to Janet Jackson, Barbara Streisand and Niel Young – describing dreams and then asking for money. The letters are documented in a book, ”Experiment with dreams”, and the texts are converted into music on a CD, ”The Codfish Suit”. To Paul McCartney, the duo wrote: ”Yesterday I had a Dream I was Paul McCartney and all my trubles seem so far away. And I said to myself why don’t I send some money to myself on Swedish postal number 15 99 80-2 Firework Edition”. They also wrote to Mick Jagger, telling him that they originally wrote the Rolling Stone song ”Sympathy for the Devil” in a dream and were demanding their fair share of the profits. As further documentation of their exploits, the two art pests have also released a CD called ”Zzz…”, supposedly the sound of them sleeping and coming up with these fantastic dreams.” (Neil Strauss; The New York Times, April 17, 1997)

”A book comprised of letters the artists had written to a selection of celebrities, autocrats, governments, and commercial and cultural institutions. In sometimes bizarre, often hilarious letters the artists describe how the addressees have appeared in or affected their dreams, and as a result, ”because these people profit themselves on everybody’s dreams and possibilities for the future”, demand monetary compensation. Writing in awkward English, the artists often take on different personas and alter egos, sliding between first person singular and plural. The relationship between the analyst and analyzed becomes effectively blurred and extended onto a collective social unconscious. The result is a poetic, hallucinatory, sinister and comical text, which is ultimately hopeful in its search for identity and affirmation against the economic and social forces of global capitalism. (Rumpsti Pumsti, Berlin. 2011)




”With their three books, IDOL, Experiment with Dreams and The Answers, Leif Elggren and Thomas Liljenberg have joined the defiant tradition of liberty that is provocative correspondence. They were probably not aware that Flann O’Brien, Groucho Marx and George Maciunas could have been their inspirations, as most ideas have a tendency to turn up by themselves.

The subsequent collection of letters, Experiment with Dreams from 1996, is the funniest of the books. Through more than two hundred letters, we follow the artists into a chaotic world of greedy enterprise and uncentered pretensions. Existence appears so distortedly hallucinatory that it seems possible to realise anything. The inspiration was a strange snippet from the latest Iraq crisis: as their country was being bombed by various western nations, President Saddam Hussein and his vice prime minister, clad in army greatcoats, sat in large palace armchairs, conversing inaudibly while classical music played.

All the letters are authentic, were posted, and are written without either conceit or false modesty. The senders very rarely let restraint go too far, instead the talk is straight and tough; their indefatigable misses are more important than their goals. They want to point to the injustices of existence, and they move cold-bloodedly, like sensitive diviners in their own intellectual slaughterhouse. The whole thing is like a youthful revolt perpetrated with adult experience.

Among their recipients of their mysterious fauxpas are people like Bill gates, Julia Kristeva, the Dalai Lama and Michael Jackson, and businesses and institutions like Coca-Cola, FBI–with a request for a DNA analysis of the British prime minister’s sperm–and CNN, the EU and the UN; the government of India receives an offer to use the artists as sacred cows. During the same period, Paul McCartney receives a letter from himself, the German people a letter with good advice from Adolf Hitler, and the Louvre a demand from the Albrecht Dürer, who ants a share of the earnings of the last few centuries from his painting, the Mona Lisa.

Their semantic attacks are frequently witty and forward reactions to contemporary myths. They don’t only acts as marauders of communication; by writing to self-interested persons, businesses and institutions, they also demonstrate truths about the unfair distribution of assets in the world–they usually end by demanding money to be paid in to their own postal giro. The letters become social commentary on a society in which rumour, word and action seem to be out of step. And while the letters must have caused surprise and anger, the pushy senders also exercise their particular power over the addressees, who must have, however temporarily, subjected themselves to their more or less indigestible thoughts and revelations. It is easy to imagine the many exclamation and question marks, which must have been scrawled in the margins.

”I am not the one writing, it is being written in me”, Claude Lévi-Strauss once said: the poet Gunnar Ekelöf, instead, pointed out that ”that which is the bottom in you is also the bottom in others”. The fully-fledged discoveries which Leif Elggren and Thomas Liljenberg sent off in Experiment with Dreams usually remained a pushy one-way communication–perhaps the letters were lost in the post–, but for the sensitive souls that Elggren and Liljenberg are, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the intuitively thought replies of the addressees. In The Answers, published in 1999, varying amounts of authenticity share the pages with even greater amounts of counterfeiting. As is so often the case in dreams, and sometimes in courts of law, the concept of true and false have blurred outlines; sometimes it seems as if something has broken in which no-one can repair.
Among the most genuine replies are conventional greeting from the Vatican, Presidents and Mrs Jacques Chirac, a German furniture firm and 10, Downing Street–one suspects that the letters have barely been read–, while Richard Gere tells the artist to get real and the Museum of Modern Art in New York threatens to sue them. Among the less authentic replies, perhaps, are the letters from Jacques Lacan, Susan Sontag, Charles Bukowski, Bill Clinton and Santa Claus.

To succeed with a forgery it is necessary to do something as if, to enter into the other and fully assimilates his or her predispositions, shortcomings and possibilities. The true, genuine, forgery–one of the pleasures that poets and artist have rarely done real justice–is no slavish imitation. When one reads the surrogate answers to the letters Leif Elggren and Thomas Liljenberg posted as part of Experiment with Dreams, one discovers hat many of them live the most fantastic lives. They have often forged themselves, and their energy flows surge unstoppably. The identities occasionally break up into unbounded levels of self-love, group affiliation and desire for power, but both kindness and empathy as well as the value twins, morals and ethics, can sometimes be glimpsed before the signature confirms existence; it is apparent that letter-writing has an important therapeutically purpose for people like Werner von Braun, Norman Mailer, Elvis Presley and Luciano Pavarotti.

The trilogy if IDOL, Experiment with Dreams and The Answers is not just for its irresponsible enthusiasm, its unlimited words and its obvious hatchet jobs. More important is the fact that the letter-writers so energetically batters down doors where there are no doors that they delight in being irreverent. And most important of all is the facts that they justify and encourage, with conviction, the titanic rebellion of the little guy.” (Mats B; Unholy Correspondences, exhibition catalogue in connection with Flown over by an Old King, Färgfabriken, Stockholm 2000)

”I det senaste numret av Lyrikvännen presenteras bland mycket annat tre mycket intressanta konstnärsskap: Kristian Lundberg, som är en av våra viktigaste unga poeter, Björn Aamodt som, om jag hade fått välja en poet, skulle få Nordiska rådets litteraturpris och konstnärerna Thomas Liljenberg och Leif Elggren. Kanske det låter konstigt att kalla de två konstnärerna för ett konstnärsskap, men när det gäller Liljenberg och Elggren är det en adekvat beskrivning. De har arbetat ihop sedan 70-talet och gör gränsöverskridande projekt som inbegriper dem båda, ett slags motsats till att tala med kluven tunga. 1996 gav de ut en bok med 200 brev riktade till makthavare inom politik och näringsliv, organisationer, institutioner samt kändisar – Experiment With Dreams. När lever vi, av vad lever vi och vem har rätt eller fel? Det är frågor som man ställer sig när man läser deras naiva och vansinnigt roliga brev. ”Please send us some money” är en genomgående och avslutande uppmaning i alla deras brev och i den frasen finns också en rättvisetanke. Har vi inte alla tänkt det som William Gibson – eller Freud tänkt – eller har vi inte alla skapat det andra skapat även om det bara är i fantasin. Jag har en dröm, alla har en dröm… I brevet till författaren William Gibson skriver de att de läst Neuromancer och att det tyckt om boken men att de tyvärr måste meddela honom att det är de själva som kommit på bokens grundkoncept. De skriver att de 1979 drömde precis Gibsons story och som bevis tar de citatet: ”You been up, haven’t you? Molly…”, som finns antecknat i deras drömdagbok den 17 mars 1979. Eftersom de misstänker att Gibson tjänat mycket pengar på sin bok så vill de naturligtvis ha del i vinsten: Please send us money on Swedish postal number 15 99 80-2, Firework Edition.” (Pelle Andersson; Aftonbladet 19.02.98)