The Function of Dreams was the first project in the series produced from the research which Elaine Shemilt undertook into the routes of migration followed by people from the area of central Italy, and in particular, the communities of Venafro and Filignano in the Provincia Isernia.
Working with Deirdre MacKenna, Elaine researched the archives of the public registry offices in Filignano, finding documents and deeds that bore testimony to the stories of journeys dating from over one hundred and fifty years of people up-rooting themselves from what they knew.
In dialogue with Deirdre MacKenna, Elaine explained her approach to making the work:
“The Function of Dreams was created as my response to the dream of the migrant being a sort of fantasy of a better place. This dream / fantasy is strong enough to motivate people to leave familiar surroundings and to undertake phenomenal journeys, undoubtedly involving hardship. The dream itself also might be daunting, but it still has a function; rather than just giving-in to hardship at home, it motivates people to make a fresh start.
This work makes a visual representation of what I imagine the dream / fantasy / motivation to consist of, hence, this collection of seemingly random images all relate in some way to the journey about to be undertaken.
When you try to recall them, dreams often come back in a bit of a muddle – and this is another reason why I want the twenty-four blocks to be able to be arranged in different ways, and for the reader to decide on their own narrative route.”
Elaine Shemilt’s artistic practice involves sculpture, installation, printmaking, photography, video and digital media and she has established a worldwide reputation for innovation in her use of printmaking across forms. Her work has been exhibited at The Hayward Annual, The Bradford International Print Biennale and the Video Show in Serpentine Gallery London, The Imperial War Museum, London and in Warsaw, Melbourne, Berlin, and Singapore.
Commissioned by Cultural Documents for Collezione Angela e Tonino Buono, Venafro
Collezione Angela e Tonino Buono, Venafro
The University of Dundee