Zoe Beloff proposes model for Blackpool theme park based on Freudian psychoanalysis

By Mark Sheerin Published: 19 September 2013

Zoe Beloff talks about DREAMLAND, The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and the Blackpool Chapter, Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, until November 2 2013

Vintage black and white photo showing a well dressed party for dinner
Back in the day: The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society© Zoe Beloff
Zoe Beloff, self-described medium, is not averse to channelling people who may or may not have ever existed. Such is the case with her new show in which Albert Grass and The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society are excavated, communed with, and celebrated.

Whether or not they really got together you feel as if these Freudians could and should have done. “The Society is something of an urban myth,” admits Zoe (via email). “It might have existed and indeed might yet come into existence.”

By inventing a cast with a past, she hopes to conjure a future for each of us. “Think of it as a potential,” she says. “Anyone can form their own Amateur Psychoanalytic Society whenever they wish to”.

The dour image of Freud is quite at odds with The Society’s japery and playful attempts to film their dreams. But was not Freud also a hedonist? He is said to have used cocaine; he certainly visited the Coney Island fair, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach for good measure.

“The Coney Island Society held meetings once a month,” claims Beloff. “There were lectures and screenings and, sometimes, invited speakers like Hereward Carrington.” And yet Carrington did really exist; he was an investigator of psychic phenomenon. Beloff also hints at the nature of the group’s Dream Films: “They re-enacted their dreams on film and analyzed them”.

“Every summer the Society celebrated with a Dream Film award dinner,” says the artist. This was, “usually at Feltman's Restaurant near the boardwalk in Coney Island.” And this too is a real location; Feltman’s on Surf Avenue won some fame as the inventors of the Hot Dog.

A number of these award-winning films can be seen in Blackpool along with pet projects by Society members. The artist mentions a bumper car game with the promising title: ‘Engines of the Id".

Beloff also states: “The idea that amusement parks are a concrete architectural manifestation of the unconscious is not new.” She refers to a book by architect Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York, which looks at Coney Island from an analytic point of view.

Perhaps the highlight of DREAMLAND is a model theme park based on the apocryphal plans of Society founder Albert Grass. “His theme park revolves around the figure of the Libido, which he conceptualized as a 15 metre high prepubescent girl. Through a serious of pavilions, linked by a ‘train of thought’, he sought to explicate Freud's theory of dream formation.”

Considering the volume of research published on that topic, one of Grass’s trains of thought sounds like a quick way to understand psychoanalysis from within. And if Dolly Parton can have her own theme park in Tennessee, then why not the father of psychoanalysis in Lancashire?

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