Dreaming Collective is a collaborative, distributed research and art studio that centers dreams as a source for alternate world-making and liberatory imagination.
But it is also a deeply intimate project that explores my own experiences, those of complete strangers, and of potential collaborators (like you). The project’s aim is to disrupt utopia/dystopia narratives that permeate thinking among designers, architects, futurists, technologists, innovators and future workers by developing new research tools based in art and conversational intimacy.
Seeking connection and creative partners during this year of isolation, I embarked on this project to learn from strangers, interview them about their dreams, and turn them into artwork that envisions new worlds, much like design thinkers and futurists use insights and signals to develop scenarios and innovations that have sometimes dire material and social consequences. Dreaming Collective is an anti-technological dream tank.
I also use Dreaming Collective is a platform to partner with and commission artists, designers, and writers to create works that retell and re-present the dreams of the collective.
The project aims to explore alternatives to our lived reality from a non-technological standpoint by centering the potential of dreams rather than networks, code, or hardware. Nobody dreams about their phone. And yet, in the 21st century the amount of labor, knowledge, and capital being pooled into building virtual infrastructure feels infinite.
It is far too easy to rely on technology fixes to solve for problems more likely related to underinvestment, under-resourcing, structural racism, political conflict, impatience, stagnant wages, or a lack of care on the part of decision-makers. Full stop. But dreams are only a starting point, because those, too, are saturated with desires that support or are endemic of ruling ideologies.
We’ll rely on dreams as the input for identifying objects of study, or artifacts. Our goal will be to map a utopian landscape iteratively, through writing, architecture, illustration, collage, installation, experiments, prototypes, books, zines, words, events, things.
We explore desirabilty by focusing on dreams rather than wants or needs. We also prioritize dreams that are non-technological. What are the things people really wish for and imagine?
Can dreams be untethered from tech companies or other non-public entities? Who owns a dream?
We measure the sustainability of an idea by judging how it fits into communities rather than how disruptive it is. How can we bring dreams to life in ways that help communities thrive?
Who is present in this dream, and how do we ensure that others are not erased?
We center justice and counter-exploitation in our design and decision-making by considering potential harm, opportunities for liberation, instances of self-determination and potential for the abolition of structures of injustice and extraction.
How can we ensure that one person’s dream does not harm others? How can a dream be used in service of a more equitable future?
Hi, I’m James Estrada.
I’m an artist and design strategist with roots in architecture and urbanism. For my work with Dreaming Collective, I take an approach that is non-disciplinary, acritical, and joy-centered. I’m from Jackson Heights, Queens, and I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan today.