This is just a sneak peek from Katrine and Tamira’s feature in SCENARIO 6:2014. If you are not a current subscriber to SCENARIO or a member of The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, then subscribe or get in touch with us here.
Antonia Sautter sits in her workshop, surrounded by sketches of costumes and masks. It is on the top floor, at the end of a winding stair, in a five-floor narrow house in the heart of Venice.
“Imagination is what makes us human,” she says. “If we repress our imagination, we wither like a plant without water.”
20 years ago, Antonia Sautter recreated Il Ballo del Doge; a traditional Venetian masque that had its golden age in the 14th and 15th century. Today, the cheapest ticket is about € 800, and the guests are typically famous and rich. All are incognito, wear masks and are dressed according to the guidelines of the night. No photography is allowed.
Antonia Sautter’s masque is a haven aimed at a particular group of people. Still, the need to dress up, let your imagination flow free, and not ‘be anybody’ is something most of us today will recognise. We are always ‘on’ with our smartphones and social media, and we are always recognised or known by others. It is rare that we get a break where we just think and dream.
This is a problem, according to Joe Kraus. He is a partner in Google Ventures, which invests in companies and helps them grow.“We threaten the key ingredients behind creativity and insight by filling up all our ‘gap’ time with stimulation. You’re eating lunch with a friend, and they excuse themselves to the restroom: a gap. Now, you pull out your phone because being unstimulated makes you feel anxious. Waiting time in line at the bank? There used to be a gap; now it’s an opportunity to send an email or a text. Simply put, the heart of creativity, insight, imagination and humaneness is what’s most threatened,” he says.
Il Ballo del Doge originated in the 15th century and was held for the next three centuries until Il Doge – the duke – stopped reigning in Venice. Back then the idea was that the aristocracy should have a chance to escape from reality into a dream world. It is this same idea that Antonia Sautter bases her balls on every year in late February.
“We dream because we exist, and if we don’t dream, we don’t exist,” she said.
To her, to dream is a part of remembering, taking breaks from thought. To her, Il Ballo del Doge is about creating a dream universe for a night. The guests arrive in gondolas along the Canal Grande to the majestic Doge Palace next to Basilica de San Marcos and the Bridge of Sighs – just like the Venetian aristocracy did about 600 years ago.
In recent years, the demand for Antonia Sautter’s masque has become so great that she considers taking her ball on a world tour.
Dreams make us evolve
Antonia Sautter isn’t the only one who thinks that dreams are necessary for everyday life. The American writer and artist Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) said that all human beings are also dream beings and that dreaming ties all mankind together. Our ability to dream, get ideas and be creative is essential to our human development.
Still, dreams aren’t just basic human or artistic necessities. At the Stern School of Business at New York University, Aswath Damodaran also sees dreams as an indispensable part of market development. Just as dreams are a part of human evolution, they also contribute to create growth.
“We dream things that we can’t achieve,” he said earlier this year.
“If we didn’t, we’d still be in caves, wondering if we shouldn’t go to that far village because it might be dangerous.”
According to Aswath Damodaran, dreaming is also what creates ‘bubbles’ like the dot.com bubble, also known as the IT bubble – when people see the same opportunities at one point in time, everyone aspires to it, and investors go along for the ride. But we, and with us the market, can also stop daydreaming and take chances because of the fear that the bubble might burst. Examples are when Facebook bought WhatsApp for USD 19 billion or when the financial crisis steamrolled us in the late noughties.
Image via Flickr