Curatorial Dreaming

Beyond survival and power, I see ‘dreaming’ (imagining desirable futures) and problem solving (making improvements) as the drivers of progress, hope and invention in the heart of the modern human.

To be clear, we are not talking about utopian thinking – there’s something just too unrealistic about utopian thinking. That’s why Earth is so interesting, it’s somewhere that exists somewhere equidistant between heaven and hell.


  1. a succession of images, thoughts or emotions passing through the mind during sleep
  2. a vision voluntarily indulged whilst awake
  3.  an aspiration; goal; aim
  4. to think or conceive of something in a very remote way
  5. most desirable; ideal
  6. dream up, to form in the imagination; devise

Growing up I was captivated by war and prison films that romanticised ‘the escape’ and depicted soldiers dreaming about what they will do after the war. Perhaps this can be a loose metaphor for the escape (or deviation) that I feel is required in research communication – but what does this escape look like?

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963)

To my parents’ generation, imagining the future was conceptualised in childhood by drawing flying cars, picturing civilisation exploring the cosmos like those in Star Trek (1966-69) or even perhaps “…being part of the first generation of people who wouldn’t die” (Whitty, 2017). But with current generations only just witnessing the introduction of the electric vehicle it might be that, if we are to have positive impact in our lifetime, if we want to see the fruits of our labour – then we must not lower, but recalibrate our expectations, our dreams.

A curatorial dreaming methodology, as proposed by Butler and Lehrer (2016) allows the artist-curator to not only reinvent what exhibition making looks like, but also step out of disciplinary boundaries in order to explore if exhibitions (in their traditional form as a room containing objects) are in fact the most appropriate vehicle to express the matters at hand. In this respect dreaming frees you from disciplines, but ties you to your own experiences.

In their book, Butler and Lehrer (2016) ask scholars to imagine their ideal exhibitions as a productive way to channel critique. With this in mind, the concept of ‘curating research’ is my curatorial dream based on my observations of the current research landscape.