Dreams in Minneapolis (awakes in St. Paul)

It’s a little too early for me to be awake.  I just woke up from a terrible dream.  What was terrible about it was how I, the dreamer,  was acting.  First let me explain what I’ve been up to lately.

For nearly a week now I’ve  been working on a project, or a series of projects at the Walker Art Center, as a part of the collaborative Red76.   The series is called Surplus Seminar, the idea is to work with surplus ideas and surplus materials to create a kind of experimental educational space.  As near as I can tell.  What I have been doing for the past two days–since the project has opened to the public–out on the gigantic lawn of the Walker, has been fun, strange, and a bit exhausting.   We have a pretty big pile of old art crates that the very accommodating and genuinely friendly staff at the Walker have saved for us–instead of land-filling them–as well as an amazing tool chest, a heaping supply of hardware, and just about anything else we’ve asked for to conduct this Surplus Seminar.  Wait, actually the building project on the lawn is called Anywhere Anyplace Academy, and is just one aspect of the multi-fronted Surplus Seminar.

If you know anything about the basement level of the museum world, or the art shipping world you might have seen these crates.   Some art objects have better temporary homes for traveling than many people have on this planet.  Indeed, some of the crates we’re working with could easily be put together to create a perfectly good home.   I was talking to a guy who works in the registrar at the Walker who told me a former staff person at one time used the old crates to construct a barn on his llama farm.  I hope I get to see that sometime.

I mentioned that these first two days have been exhausting, and this has to do with the methods we’re using to transform this material into some kind of spaces for education.  It is a total improvisation with whoever comes to the Walker and chooses to engage with us and the materials, from toddlers to octogenarian folks.   I was showing a ten-year-old how to use a power drill yesterday.  This is not the type of building I’ve been doing in precious isolation in my subterranean studio at Roots and Culture, though that also tends to involve a lot of improvisation, and frankly, a more comprehensive commitment to using surplus materials (I try even not to buy hardware).   Instead this is building that involves intense amounts of socializing, explaining of our intentions, attempting to open space for all different kinds of people to contribute work and ideas.  We’ve been making drawings with kids of all ages, asking them to imagine what they would like a school to be like.  We’ve been talking families, passers-by,museum workers, and  art students.  It is a field  of ceaseless change, already, just two days in.   It is fun and overwhelming, and it is an incredible privilege, I think, on more than one level.   And I think that my dream this morning was related to that.

I was in some kind of apartment, mine I guess (though I don’t literally have an apartment these days), and it was the opening of some kind of art event I was hosting.  Some collaborators and admired friends were there with me, kind of making fun of me for the messy presentation.  We were hanging out drinking, there were piles of change in particular that made the place seem messy.  A shipment arrived, a delivery person brought books which I had printed as  a part of the presentation.  I was excited to see them, but I had to pay the delivery person for them.   I was trying to write her a check and kept messing it up.  I was a having nearly paralytic difficulty writing the check and was incredibly confused and kept messing up and was being berated by my friends, one of whom was a dark, mean dwarf who might have had a Boston accent.  I was particularly frustrated at him.  It was my behaviour towards him that I am most disappointed with, when I said above that I acted terribly in the dream.  Upon waking I thought of the dwarf upon whose back Shiva Nataraja dances, a figure of misery.  (This doesn’t have any relationship to real small people, it seems important to note.)    Anyhow after wasting all of the checks in my confusion and looking for more checks and only finding a bunch of miscellaneous printed paper –perhaps at this point the delivery woman was tired of waiting and may already have taken the books away–I decided to go out and get cash from an ATM.   The streets were teaming with somewhat depressed people, I was certainly one of them, the sky was gray.  I found at the ATM that my account balance was negative fifty-some dollars and I was sure I had enough to pay for the books before.   Some one showed me a chart explaining how there had been some kind of financial collapse.  I immediately understood that I would not get to distribute those books as I had hoped to and thought about how it would be disappointing for the people who had contributed to making the books.  And how the cash card had become useless in that moment, and this was the mind-set in which I woke up.  Wondering what I’m going to do when these things are gone or cease to be useful because the complex systems they depend on are ephemeral and will change and perhaps collapse?   And I thought about the cushions upon which all of my work, my plans, my ideas, my fantasies float, the privilege that allows us to conduct these wild experiments at the Walker, and wonder how much longer it can last.  I wonder which parts of it I still need to learn not to take for granted?  I wonder if the learning we’re doing and the learning we want to help facilitate is of any use?    I suspect that some of it is.  And I remember my dream, all the people out on the street, who despite their depression (my depression?),  already had the wisdom of the collapse I was just becoming aware of and that feeling of knowing that the only thing to do was persevere and work to remember that wisdom and do what can be done with only my body, getting to know these people so we can persevere and remember together.  Their was a gleam in the grey.  I think one of the guys on the street was Jimmy Boggs.   Surely, soon enough, we’ll be celebrating together.

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