Artist in Residence Podcast: Mohamed Hassan

Journalist and poet Mohamed Hassan has made you a personalised audio performance.

Posted on
22.05.20

Self-isolation is hard. Art can help everyone. Artist in Residence is an immersive podcast series made in collaboration with ten New Zealand artists across theatre, music, poetry and dance. Each artist has made you a 15-minute personalised performance to help with one thing you might be feeling in isolation and as we transition out of it.

Mohamed Hassan is an award-winning journalist and poet from Auckland. His podcast series 'Public Enemy' was awarded Gold at the 2017 NY Radio Awards, and his latest series 'The Guest House' was published by RNZ in March, exploring community grief after the Christchurch attacks. In 2015 he won the New Zealand National Poetry Slam, and his upcoming poetry collection 'National Anthem' will be released by Dead Bird Books in 2020.  

Artist in Residence: Mohamed Hassan

Still Life with a Pool of Dreams

Mohamed has created Still Life with a Pool of Dreams, an audio performance from lockdown, to listen to when you’re having trouble falling asleep.

Listen in bed, with your eyes closed and your mind ready to wander.

This episode is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Soundcloud, our RSS feed and right here.

If you're listening from mobile, Apple, Spotify and Soundcloud are preferable to the below player (as the sound won't cut out when your phone goes to sleep!)

We recommend headphones.

Each artist has provided you with sleeve notes for their episode. Mohamed's sleeve notes are below.

Mohamed Hassan

Sleeve Notes for Still Life with a Pool of Dreams

Mohamed Hassan

To'asavili was dreaming of cows swimming under the sea.

Andy ruined a cosplay event by spilling his drink on the PA system.

I’ve been having the strangest dreams lately. Ever since we went into lockdown two months ago and they’ve come crashing into my life. Vivid. Anxious. Surreal. Every night, without fail, I am plunged into a parallel universe in which I’m burdened by a weighted sense of importance and tasked to play a vital role in a mystery of my own making.

One night, I was bartending a jazz event in Washington DC hosted by Jon Stewart (yes, THE Jon Stewart) before abandoning my post halfway so I could register to vote in the midterm elections. Except all the polling booths are closed and I have no money for the bus. 

Another night I found a pair of AirPods that let me see the last memory of their owner, which happened to be the final moments of a sailing apprenticeship training program that ended in a deadly shipping accident. Now I had to investigate to free the young sailing student who’d been framed for it.

It was too much pressure.

Suddenly this became a strand that connected us all, intrepid sleepers journeying into the abyss.

I was curious about why I was suddenly having this uninterrupted string of fantastical dreams, why they all felt so real, and why they were all so damn stressful. I posted something about it on social media, only to be met with a flood of similar stories from my friends all over the world. As it turned out, I wasn’t alone.

Tali was accepted into a haven for lucid dreamers.

Kirsti uncovered Nick Cave’s darkest secret (turns out he’s a cannibal).

Amy got a massive crest tattoo across her stomach that said ‘100% British’ (she’s not British).

As it also turned out, this was happening all over the world, and all at the same time. I received stories from people in different countries, different time zones and different walks of life. They were all just as perplexed as to why these inexplicable dreams were visiting them each night.

Suddenly this became a strand that connected us all, intrepid sleepers journeying into the abyss, fighting angry cosplayers, Australian rock stars and the collective anxiety that we all felt. That was overwhelming us all. Conjuring instead highly stressful but utterly nonsensical dreams.

In California, Briana’s indoor waterfall feature flooded her house.

In Istanbul, Laurelie brought a squid back to life in a flowerpot. 

In London, Mahmoud practiced his spells for a war against other parts of the UK (also he was Harry Potter).

So what was the meaning of all this?

Well, I wasn’t the only one collecting dreams. A number of research institutions worldwide are conducting studies on this phenomena, collecting data and stories and attempting to decipher what it means, and what it said about our brains. In fact, The Leon Neuroscience Research Centre found that since people in France went into mandated lockdown, they began having 35% more vivid dreams, and a study by the Turku Brain and Mind Centre in Finland found that anxiety can often lead to a lot of bad dreams. 

There also does seem to be a link between irregular sleeping patterns and weird dreams. We tend to have most of our dreams during the deeper, REM stage, of our sleep cycles. So if, like me, you’ve been staying up into the spooky hours of the morning and sleeping in more often, your chances of having more vivid dreams were much higher because our brains were forcing us into longer REM periods of sleep to make up for a sudden change in our circadian rhythms.

Studies done in the past have also shown links between traumatic events and disruptions to dreams on a societal scale. After the 9/11 attacks, people across the US began to have disturbing and vivid dreams, processing their trepidation at night when everything finally went quiet.

It’s no wonder then that in the throes of historically uncertain times, like the ones we currently find ourselves in, we are turning to our subconscious for answers. Sinking our mind’s elbow into the murky waters of the sleep world in search of comfort or meaning, but instead finding all of our supressed and confused emotions lurking beneath the surface. A yearning to escape into the cosmos and feed our sense for adventure, connection and purpose.

And so, locked up, our minds wandered.

Episode credits

Still Life with a Pool of Dreams was created and composed by Mohamed Hassan
Sound design by Byron Coll
Special thanks to Eva Corlette, Dominic Hoey, Joel Moriasi, Eric Soakai, Basma Hassan and Ahmed Youssef

Produced by Kate Prior for The Pantograph Punch
Made with the support of NZ on Air

You can listen to Artist in Residence: Mohamed Hassan on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundcloud, our RSS feed and above.

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