Youtian Duan
MFA Thesis 2021
Dept. of Furniture Design
Rhode Island School of Design

title: What Do I See Between 2 to 8 O'Clock —— A Dream Journal 

︎ Strawberry scented body wash does cleanse, but is strawberry scent real?
   Maybe it's artificially fake.
   But is the artificial one fake?
   The artificial strawberry flavor is also an authentic artificial strawberry flavor.

︎ What's real and what's fake?

︎ Barbie is a fake human.
   Barbie is a real Barbie.
   Fake yellow croakers are real fake yellow croakers.
   Real yellow croakers are fake fake yellow croakers.

︎ Nothing is real. Nothing is fake.


We record our daily life, our daily emotions. But maybe we lie to ourselves. Or our expression is a kind of hope: what we want to look like or want others to think we are like. Unfortunately, it's usually not our natural appearance, not the honest thoughts in our hearts. Maybe we don’t understand ourselves.

I like to record my dreams. In the dream world, sometimes I relax, sometimes nervous, and unconsciously wander around.

That is the real me.

In my unconscious dream state, I identify myself, know myself, again and again. I can live in peace with a world that is alien to me.

Most of the plots in our dreams are messy and illogical. Sometimes a dream can jump directly from one scenario to another, with a very rigid transition. Dreams are never a coherent story. But each dream will have a mainline, like someone dreaming of finding the exit, a moment to go here and there, to places that seem illogical.

The furniture I make may not look like pieces of furniture. They may be a bush of mushrooms, a tulip, a flock of lambs, but they are also really pieces of furniture--or I don't mind what the user thinks they are.

I dream all night every day, and I know that's probably not a good thing for the quality of sleep. But I cherish dreaming so much, even more than my experiences in the material world, that it actually has some impact on my work.

Chapter 1:

"Life is like a dream" is a Chinese proverb, an old saying that is repeated over and over again. Tracing its origin, it comes from the end of "Zhuangzi - On Qiwu.”

"The Butterfly Dream"

Once, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering about, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know that he was Zhuang Zhou.

Suddenly he woke up, and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuang Zhou. But he didn't know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhuang Zhou. Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly, there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.
— Zhuangzi, chapter 2
— 庄子,第二章

In the old story, Zhuang Zhou dreamed that he had become a butterfly, and he was a dancing butterfly, delighted and relaxed, not knowing that he was Zhuang Zhou. He woke up a while later, found himself still sleeping in his bed. He tossed and turned, but was never sure, was he dreaming into a butterfly, or was the butterfly dreaming into Zhuang Zhou? Which of the two is the actual existence?

The life experience that I think is real during the day and the story that I experience in my dream at night, which I now consider to be unreal, cannot be denied to each other and have precisely the same logical value. When they are "PRESENT," they are actually "PRESENT," and when they are not, they have become fantastic.

Further, according to Zhuangzi, life can also be regarded as an enormous dream. The ordinary person thinks it is confirmed only because he is still in the dream. Just as the butterfly did not know that it was transformed into Zhuang Zhou, it had to wait until it woke up to see that it was a moony dream.

How can a person know the truth? If the dream is real enough, they do not have any ability to perceive that they are dreaming. Between the real and the imaginary, there seems to be an excellent terror brewing. To the general public, what a person sees and feels in waking life is real, and dreams are illusions and unreal. Zhuangzi, however, thought otherwise. Although waking is one realm and dreaming is another realm, they are not the same; Zhuang Zhou is Zhuang Zhou, and the butterfly is the butterfly. They are not the same either. They are both just a phenomenon, a form, a stage in the movement of that moment.

Who knows what tonight's dream will bring to me.

When I stay in the "real world" for a long time, I feel uncomfortable and need to go back to the spiritual world, the fantasy world. If I stay in the accepted "reality" for too long, I will feel dehydrated. Do people call this escapism, fantasy, virtual--and "reality"?

Virtual and reality: which exists, which does not exist? And who can say it? It's all about living in the world you perceive? Tell yourself that this is "existence.” This is the evidence to convince yourself that you are alive and that the world still exists. Where is the reality? You tell me? Where is the fantasy? You tell me.

When I'm awake, yes, this is the definition of my awake, and I'm sure it's not just me: when I'm awake, I don't feel that anything exists. None of this exists. Nothing. Everything goes back to the emptiness, the absence of time, the state of non-existence. It's not empty. It’s just non-existent, and "nothing" is not an accurate description because there is not even a state of "nothing.” There is no existence, and there is no non-existence.

There is a world called "reality" where people live in a dream woven by the collective consciousness. But are there many people who believe in this dream? Do you believe it?

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