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a dog dreams (of god)

John Sanborn

David Van Tieghem | soundtrack

commissioned by ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien

a dog dreams (of god) is an abstract meditation on the nature of animals, and the animal nature of humans.  There is liberation in the margins, as the specter of a supreme consciousness hovers over a romp in the park.


Your needs are simple. You eat, you shit, you bark, you sleep, you crave attention – and you dream.

Forget about politics, money, war, racism – all the worries of the modern world.

You are a dog.


Your routine delivers freedom, a palette reduced to essentials, with the purity of chasing after scents opening your imagination to possibilities. Your heart leaps at the sound of the key in the door, you salivate when the box of treats shakes, and you curl up next to your human to receive a return for your unquestioned love.


As you sleep, do you dream?  Of course, you do. You review the events of your day, hunt for the things you love, and infuse the sensations of your animal world with a weaponized whimsy. You enjoy joy.


In your dreams are life’s pleasures, asking to be defined.  But dreams contain things you fear, objects that confuse, and a sense that there exists something else beyond your dreams. Something larger than yourself, your nose and tail, and your backyard.


This nags at you, but you turn over and continue to dream. Humans speak to you and their repeated words trigger a response, but when they dip down to give you a kiss, you are confused. Their affection is clear, but language is untranslatable. For a moment you think in terms of scale, but you roll on your back for a tummy rub.


Your world is constructed from impulses, yet somehow you feel the pull of a larger undertaking, a greater presence. You feel there are forces controlling you, connecting you, but still your immediate needs outweigh these melancholy sensations. In uncertain times, in a toxic world - not of your creation, you live to escape.


Our relationship to animals is complex and fraught with anthropomorphic intensity. We are especially attached to the charisma and dignity of dogs, and we project human traits on their nuanced exhibitions. Do they do the same to us, giving us voices and reasons from their perspective? We bred them from wolves to pets – as their unquestionable loyalty and unconditional love transcends the scale and profundity of the human condition.

Is there a lesson for us here? Maybe so.

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