Artist draws on Freudian theme park plan at Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery

Sigmund Freud pictured in 1931. Picture: AP
Sigmund Freud pictured in 1931. Picture: AP
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ONE could be forgiven for thinking an art exhibition showcasing the work of Freud would feature the fleshy portraits painted by the late Lucian of the Freud clan.

But an exhibition in Edinburgh gained inspiration from another famous member of the Freud family, the painter’s grandfather Sigmund, the ­psychoanalyst.

Artist Zoe Beloff with the exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery. Picture: Greg Macvean

Artist Zoe Beloff with the exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery. Picture: Greg Macvean

The New York-based artist Zoe Beloff has created fantastical Freudian visions that have been put on display in the Talbot Rice Gallery at Edinburgh University.

A History of Dreams Remains to be Written is the first solo ­exhibition in Scotland by the artist, who is originally from Edinburgh and studied at Edinburgh College of Art.

The Talbot Rice Gallery has been transformed into “Dreamland”, a Freudian funfair based on an attempt in the 1920s to turn Coney Island into a theme park based on Freud’s theory of dreams.

The artist has drawn from Freud’s visit to Coney Island in 1909 and a movement – the Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalysts – that grew up after his departure.

The driving force, behind attempts to build the Dreamland amusement park, was a character called Albert Glass.

The exhibition includes letters written by Glass as well as the letters written by those who disapproved of his idea which failed to get off the ground. One such letter rejecting a party devoted to Freud’s “elucidation of dreams” says: “I do not believe that the public would enjoy your attractions, which appear to cater to rather prurient tastes.

“I have never heard of the foreign doctor whose name you mention and I cannot imagine that the public would find his ideas to their liking.”

The Talbot Rice Gallery has taken a rather more enlightened view of Freud and has had no hesitation in showing off Beloff’s interpretation of what Dreamland would look like.

Archive films, installations, a hall of mirrors and her own drawings of Dreamland are included in the exhibition, which reflect the risquè nature of some of Freud’s theories.

Beloff said: “It is a creative venture done both as an artist and an archivist. I have drawn the plans that I imagine that the Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalysts might have come up with.

“These would have been the plans that they would have made.”

Upstairs from the Freud exhibition in the Talbot Rice Upper Gallery, a new video work titled The Days of the Commune will be shown for the first time.

This aspect of the exhibition was created following the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.

It harks back to the Fourth French Revolution, which took place in Paris in 1871. Ms Beloff attempts to link two revolutionary movements and the video was been put together after she restaged a play written by Bertold Brecht about the Victorian uprising.

A History of Dreams Remains to be Written by Zoe Beloff runs from 17 November to 16 February next year.

Background: Psychoanalyst linked symbols to primal need

An important part of the work of Sigmund Freud was the analysis of his patient’s dreams. He used this dream analysis to diagnose and treat their psychiatric ills. Freud also studied dreams as a way to understand aspects of the personality, especially those aspects that lead to psychological problems and disorders.

He believed that nothing human beings did happened by chance, and that every action, no matter how seemingly trivial, was at some level motivated by the unconscious mind. In order for a civilised society to function, certain primal needs and desires must be repressed, and Freud’s theory was these repressed urges were released by the unconscious during dream sleep.

To Freud, dreams were a direct connection to the unconscious mind, and he studied that connection through the interpretation of symbols found in dreams. Freud was especially interested in the sexual content of dreams. He often saw ordinary objects in dreams as representations of sexual desire.