Tate Britain Exhibition

Art Now: Georgina Starr: Hypnodreamdruff

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Enter a strange dreamworld of film and installations

Hypnodreamdruff begins as a dream related by Tricia, flatmate to Emma and Pauline. We first encounter all three in the video Dream Interference Device. Tricia describes a night-club called The Hungry Brain which is a meeting place for around a dozen characters. As Tricia describes the dream, Emma attempts to analyse it and uncover hidden meanings. The dream bursts into life in The Hungry Brain video and the conservations begin to form an elaborate patchwork of casual observations and apparently random speculations related to activities of the mind. Although ultimately the product of Starr’s imagination the characters gather a momentum of their own as contrasting personalities contained within the imaginative dimension of their dialogues and performances. Their individuality has been intensified through extravagant language, strange obsessions, eccentric habits and oblivious self-absorption.

Away from The Hungry Brain night-club we see several of the characters at home, including Dave in Magic and Pauline in Frenchy. In the spotlight is Dave, first seen in the club, holding a one-sided conversation and showing feelings vicariously through the lyrics of Lionel Ritchie songs. Dave’s private life in the caravan appears plausible and real. Starr conflates reality and fantasy making us unsure where one ends and the other begins. The proximity of real props and fictional narratives, of filmed events and vacated sets, juxtaposes different levels of time and destabilises the boundaries between actuality and artifice.

References to Grease, or to the four Marys (the Bunty Annual heroines) suggest passages recollected from the artist’s youth. However, the strong autobiographical content and Starr’s physical presence, which were central to her earlier videos and installations such as The Nine Collections of the Seventh Museum and Visit to a Small Planet, are much reduced. Elena, the chanteuse Starr performs, is an alter ego of Mary, herself schizophrenically divided into multiple personalities with staring eyes (‘The Marys’). Mary in turn is a figment of Pauline’s imagination, one of the many figures projected from her inner life. In the enlarged cast in ‘Hypnodreamdruff’, Starr has become one piece of a larger puzzle absorbed into the interplay between all the other characters.

Text written by Sean Rainbird

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography

Georgina Starr, Hypnodreamdruff 1996 © Tate Photography


Dream Interference Device (Emma, Tricia and Pauline)
Video, 33 mins

The Hungry Brain
Three video projection, 15 mins

Magic (Dave’s Caravan)
Video, 25 mins

Frenchy (Pauline’s Bedroom Scene)
Video/Slide, 12 mins


DAVE - Thirty-something manager of The Dry Cleaners Shop
Dave is a lively, talkative guy with acute dandruff. He has an obsessive personality and is an avid collector and hobbyist. His hobbies include magic and steam ironing, and his obsessions Lionel Ritchie music and inhaling vacuum cleaner air. Dave lives alone in a caravan and fights loneliness by turning every domestic situation into a theatrical event.

EMMA - Friend and flatmate of Tricia and Pauline
A student of psychology, she is intelligent, witty and passionate about her work. Emma views day to day experiences in a very specific way - for her, the most mundane experience or conversation is seen to be of great theoretical significance in some absurd way.

TRICIA - Friend and flatmate of Emma and Pauline
Tricia is a writer with an inquiring and analytical mind. Although prone to worrying and paranoia, she is quick-witted and sarcastic. Recently becoming obsessed with her dreams, which she has started to remember very vividly, she has turned to Emma for advice in working out their significance.

PAULINE - Flatmate of Tricia and Emma
Obsessed with cleanliness and wastefulness, Pauline inhabits a strange, inner world. Her most recent preoccupation has been to re-enact one of the high points of her life, which was when she played Frenchy in a school production of Grease. In her own room she is able to concentrate and explore her strange collection of characters, costumes, music and props.

SALLY - Sister of Tricia (appears as herse(f in Tricia’s dream)
Sally has been in and out of temporary employment and trouble since leaving school. Her boyfriend Pete has a similar temperament to her and they spend most of their time bickering and arguing about trivia while trying to be in control.

PETE - Boyfriend of Sally (appears as himself in Tricia’s dream)
Like Sally, Pete is bored with what life has to offer, and will do just about anything to get by. He is loud and foul-mouthed and is forever telling jokes and stories which although they rarely make sense, are in themselves bizarre gems of information.

THE MARYS - Characters which appear in Tricia’s dream
The Four Marys sit together in threes or fours and communicate with each other via the symbols of magic tricks. Though they appear to be different people they ultimately look vaguely alike due to the fact that they have the same eyes (the eyes of Pauline).

THE HYPNOTIC WOMAN - Character in Tricia’s dream
The Hypnotic Woman sits alone at a table and attempts to hypnotise herself using a pair of false eyes.

ALEX (man in yellow) - Character in Tricia’s dream
Alex describes a dream he has recently had which involved Polly. As Polly explodes into her own wild analysis of the dream Alex is forced to retaliate, and his own sensitive character is slowly revealed.

POLLY (woman in red) - Character in Tricia’s dream
Polly is a pale-faced woman with hair to match her explosive and passionate character. As she attempts to analyse Alex’s dream she shows signs of paranoia, emotional eccentricity and melancholia.

ELENA - Character which Pauline adopts in Tricia’s dream
Elena (a dream version of Pauline) is a cabaret singer who sings at the club in Tricia’s dream. Singing a song called ‘Schizophrenia’ she describes a tale about a woman with four personalities -all named Mary. As she sings, The Four Marys dance in synchronisation behind her.

THE FOOTMAN/FALLMAN - Character in Tricia’s dream
The F/F man appears twice in the dream. Firstly being verbally attacked by Pete and secondly when he crashes to the floor after sitting on a red paper chair.

THE REDDAVID COPPERFIELDWOMAN - Character in Tricia’s dream
The R.D.C.W. sits reading a David Copperfield book.


Georgina Starr. Born 1968 in Leeds. Lives and works in London.

Tate Britain

London SW1P 4RG
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13 February – 7 April 1996

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