Where Shadows Cease series

Where Shadows Cease: Resonance of America’s Dream

The collective unconscious suggests that repeated patterns originating from ancestral archetypes are reproduced in religion, literature, myths and dreams as a means to provide insights into cultural perceptions and beliefs. Even when a system of beliefs is no longer accepted as true, lore can persist as a means to communicate cultural values.  

America’s rich history of folklore, myths and morality tales have faded in cultural significance in part due to globalization, but also to social media’s one hundred and forty-character mindset. One constant remains: our relationship with the mythos and iconography of the American Dream.

Growing up in Chicago, the grandchild of immigrants who came to the country with nothing and found success, my family personified the American Dream. I was raised in the bubble of that dream. Our yearly family summer road trips visiting iconic cities, national monuments and parks generated immense adoration and pride in our land and those remembrances resonate to this day. But as this country encounters unprecedented challenges, the promises and principles that fueled this national ethos have created persistent uncertainties concerning our collective future and subsequently altered my unconscious landscape. 

For years my work has examined variations on the transitory moments between dreaming and waking, which reveal fleeting traces of what once was, but has presumably vanished. This ongoing exploration originates from debilitating night terrors, which began as a small child and have continued as an adult. These ephemeral moments originate in my dreams and are translated from my waking life. To emulate my unconscious world and find a tangible way to portray my dream-like visions entirely in-camera, I have created twenty-four handmade medium format film cameras primarily made out of plastic, vintage camera parts and random household objects, with single-element lenses molded from hobby plastic and rubber; the images produced capture the unique quality of these visions. The extensive optical and technical limitations of these cameras has required me to rely on instinct and intuition, which similarly are the tools used to interpret dreams. 

This series further explores the connections between the personal and collective unconscious during an unparalleled period in America when much of society is too busy, distracted, over-stimulated, divided and besieged by social media to reflect on what our dreams are trying to convey. Through revisiting iconic locations and landscapes across the United States I have explored the corridors of this land through visual metaphor and symbolism as a means to uncover the hidden uniformities that reside within the nations’ collective unconscious during this unparalleled time. By infusing common dream themes and symbols found within the familiar, I have observed commonly shared memories and universal representations found at places connected to the ethos of the “American Dream,” which reflect the collective hopes, fears and aspirations found in the social topography of America.
– Susan Burnstine

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