ABBA’S DREAM WITHIN A DREAM

‘’I’m like a dream within a dream that’s been decoded’’, sings ABBA on their comeback single DON’T SHUT ME DOWN. The words associate Edgar Allan Poe’s poem:

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

The lyrics video conjures up the figure of the Moebius strip:

The Moebius strip was first used by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan in the 1960s. Lacan’s concept was to explore the psyche by means of four dimensional geometry. The Moebius strip represents the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious plane. These are parallel languages: whenever you speak, the unconscious speaks through you. To understand this figure, you must look at it in three dimensions. For example, you take a strip of paper and twist it in the middle. As in MC Escher’s famous painting, the strip now appears to have two sides, but only has one. At the end of the strip, you reach a point where you begin again — in reverse.

Psychoanalysis explains that our self-knowledge is an illusion. Every time the conscious thinks ‘’it knows what it wants’’, the unconscious produces the opposite of that thought. This is a bit like looking into a distorted mirror. You come to realize that all of your identifications are illusions: you are not what your parents, teachers, supervisors or partners told you. The search for identity turns into doubling: for every ‘’you’’, there is your ‘’dark double’’ (Doppelganger). The double repeats the mistakes you are trying to repress. You are thrown into an existential loop; a Buddhist would call it ‘’bad karma’’.

The exit is to be found in the space that the Moebius strip enfolds. In a flat image, this space appears empty. But when you look at the 3D model, you see that it is a portal, and a possibility. You can go through, towards entirely unknown dimensions. In psychoanalysis, this would lead you to abandon other people’s desires. You gain a degree of freedom to imagine yourself on your own terms. As Albert Einstein famously said: ‘’No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it’’.

In one fell swoop, DON’T SHUT ME DOWN captures the fatal loop AND the way technology points to the exit.

The song poses a topical question: on this lonely planet, how can I re-connect with my lover ? This isn’t just ABBA’s personal issue. The entire world is looking for new connections:

Will you leave me standing in the hall
Or let me enter?
The apartment hasn’t changed at all
I got to say I’m glad
Once these rooms were witness to our love
My tantrums and increasing frustration
But I go from mad
To not so bad in my transformation (So now)

In the video, two lights appear on the planet (Moebius strip). The lights represent the old ABBA-lovers, and the new ABBA-lovers. The two engage in a complex dance: just when it seems they are getting close, they become distant again. Sometimes they intersect, other times they multiply. Just as today’s world is meandering between the old bipolarity, and the promise of multipolarity. At one point, the camera zooms into the dark planet. A starry path suggests that connection might happen in the space between.

The chorus crystallizes the point:

And now you see another me, I’ve been reloaded, yeah
I’m fired up, don’t shut me down (Don’t shut me down)
I’m like a dream within a dream that’s been decoded
I’m fired up, I’m hot, don’t shut me down
I am not the one you knew (I’m not the one you knew)
I’m now and then combined
And I’m asking you to have an open mind (And I won’t be the same)

This is a perfect summary of the Moebius paradox. Even a ‘’decoded dream’’, such as faded love, allows for another dream, another opening to the world. Reloading (or rebranding) isn’t merely duplication, or nostalgia for the past. Future unravels as a potential between the present and the past — ‘’Now and then combined’’. The mind might be trapped in an endless cycle. But at the same time, the mind is open.

DON’T SHUT ME DOWN will be performed in a fascinating virtual tour. A team of 500+ animators is working on ABBA’s digital avatars. These will be created in the interaction between the singers and the computer. In this way, the avatars are neither human, nor digital. They are that portal to the fourth dimension: something in between.