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Born out of a reflection on the nature of images and their nocturnal vocation, Better in the Dark than His Rider is both a fable and a survival guide. The collected work by Francesco Merlini spans different years, possibly quite distant from one other; shot in all four continents, his pictures reveal the unique perspective of someone who, like a sleepwalker guided by ghosts, seeks for something nameless. The title is drawn, almost literally, from a 19th century manual of optics. The original sentence – “[…] much better in the dark than his rider” – refers to a horse’s night vision compared to a human’s.
The selected sequence of pictures unravels around the transitional stage between wakefulness and sleep, engaging with hypnagogia as a sensory yet dreamlike mode of semiconscious representation. Images make up mind’s psychic contents. If in dreams self-consciousness is suspended and images look real to the extent that we are sleeping, when dozing we can consciously guide them because partially aware that we are dreaming. Stated otherwise, in lucid dreams we know we are faced with the contents of our imagination, whose edges appear hallucinatory. Dreaming is a perpetual state we do experience both asleep and awake. Thanks to imagination, the dream matter turns into the mind’s real object again.