Photo of wax sculptures in installation

He Dreamed Overtime

Lost love, obsession, and a man driven to create peculiar sculptures
Sydney, Australia
1 shows: exhibition history

“We all know stories about someone who lost their mind over a lost love. Some of us have lived it. Some are able to heal. And some will stay trapped in their unprocessed grief, regret and longing. Once, while volunteering at a hospice years after I created the story for “He Dreamed Overtime”, I would encounter a man dying of a broken heart”  - Iris Häeussler

18th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney Australia. Curated by Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster

“He Dreamed Overtime*” was created by Häeussler as a legacy project to tell the story of Ted Wilson, a fictitious character who worked as a park ranger on Cockatoo Island in Sydney, Australia, before he mysteriously disappeared. The artist immersed herself deeply into the story by unreservedly assuming the identity of a second character, Stanley Dusk, a pest control manager at Independent Pest Control Sydney (IPSC), who took it upon himself to investigate Ted’s disappearance after ‘discovering’ 73 beeswax sculptures in a cave nearby. Certain that the strange sculptures were made by Ted, and curious if they would hold clues about his life and disappearance, Stanley decided to set up a makeshift laboratory in an abandoned house not far from where the sculptures were found.

Stanley carefully analyzed each artifact with an almost scientific rigor­–making x-rays, labeling, categorizing, and methodically re-enacting the processes used to make the sculptures as a way to understand their material and sentimental meanings. X-rays revealed objects deeply embedded within the beeswax sculptures and told of a forbidden love. One such artifact was a necklace belonging to a woman named Nelly, who Ted had fallen in love with 30 years prior.

As Stanley became more and more entangled in Ted’s secrets, preoccupied by longing, lost love, unrealized dreams, and fantasy-driven sculptural forms, he began to blog about his discoveries and over time became so consumed by his investigation that he was compelled to continue the work Ted left behind.

For the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012), Häeussler trained 56 volunteers to lead visitors on a haunting tour through the ‘abandoned house’, an historic structure known as Building #2 on Cockatoo Island. There they would discover displays of peculiar artifacts while delving into the enigmatic legacies of Stanley Dusk, Ted Wilson, and Nelly.

*I learned in Australia that the phrase “to dream overtime” is a colonizer’s attempt to translate the meaning of an Indigenous notion that does not distinguish between states of dreaming (sleep) and states of working (awake), but rather understands both within a more holistic state of being. 


Take a Tour: Photos of Building 2 by Beth Kapusta.

Watch a video of the installation at YouTube.

See also: 18th Biennale of Sydney.