As of today, I am 8 months pregnant. During my pregnancy, I’ve been creating a new body of work called “Fetal Dreams,” which includes playful surrealist collages and photography imagining what the consciousness of my fetus may be like. This work was inspired when I learned that fetuses experience REM sleep cycles and evidence of dreaming while in utero, beginning at around 27 weeks gestation (roughly 6.5 months). The content of fetal dreaming is hotly contested among scientists and medical professionals, as well as philosophers. Some scientists believe that the purpose of dreaming in humans (including fetuses) is to simulate dangerous situations as “practice;” for example, common dreams of being chased and feeling fear of being chased could be an evolutionary artifact from our hunter gatherer ancestors, who frequently had to outrun predators. Children and babies are likely to have more nightmares than good dreams; as they age nightmares decrease in frequency.
Scientists largely agree that if dreams of fetuses have any content at all, it is extremely superficial and minimal, since dreams are based on our perceptions of reality. Fetuses obviously have no experience in the world. A fetus’s waking life arguably has no language, no images, no past experience. So, could it be that pure sensory information is the only content of fetal dreams? We have no way to know. This work is an imagining of what fetal dreams may be like, taking into consideration these theories as well as some spiritual ideas dealing with reincarnation.