stress dreams

Oct 2019

I woke up in the dark. Pillows smashed up high against the wall with my hair pushing against the shelves, their flatness caving my head in darkness and making me sweat. One thing tormented me. It swam around in my head tumbling and summersaulting as it strained itself to be resolved. But when I opened my eyes everything vanished. Obliterated from my memory and mutating into fear. The fear that grows the further it moves from tangibility. The more distant it moves from an understanding, the more my head pulsates. Over and over, I try to string-to gather, the essence of this thing, growing in my head. no grounding, no face, no name, no language.

With every fumble of the duvet it strengthens. 

 

The core of this thing has fallen, obliterated from my memory. That gap has been filled with a fear fed by a distrust of uncertainty, its cloudy existence punctuated by every turn sleepy of my head, resistant. It strengthens with every fumble of the duvet.

 

Walking around the next day a stranger to my body and a guest within my head, I roam, in a zombie like condition. But its no apocalypse now, its simple desks, seats and screens that surround me, completely the same. Nothing has changed but everything is different. Trying to remember that unidentifiable thing I was eaten by last night,  I explain to you that I have been occupied by ‘stress dreams’. Pulling this intimacy out of my own head and into actuality, you agree with me. You have felt this thing also. A torment we shared last night as we let ourselves loose into our subconsciousness.

 

That evening, around a table of spaghetti bolognese I tell my dad about last nights events, to which he says ‘That happened to me!’, very different but the same. A gap filled with a distrust of uncertainty, its cloudy existence punctuated by every turn of the head, resistant. With every fumble of the duvet it strengthens. 4am he wakes, bolt upright, he walks down to the cellar and fiddles with the boiler. A rational approach, he thinks, to dealing with such darkness. As if the boiler in the cellar was where this stress were situated, and emitted to our sleeping bodies like a radio broadcast. He confesses, ‘such tinkering did not restore clarity’, dismayed. Mum chimes in, ‘I had those dreams!’ and sighs, ‘but I was worried about work tomorrow,  so I know why they were there.’ -  But mum! I think, its not just you! Its an epidemic! its an occupation! They’ve taken residence! They’re more than just dreams!

 

This morning around coffee and ginger biscuits at 9:30 am I suggest that we have been collectively occupied by the force of the stress dream. A force that disembarks at night and disappears in the day. It moves so fast that when we open our eyes we don’t know its shape, its face, its name, its language. To which they all agree - they have indeed been occupied by, a thing, a darkness, a sweaty tormenting gap. Filled with a distrust of uncertainty, its cloudy existence punctuated by every turn of the head, resistant. With every fumble of the duvet it strengthens. We are not safe in our sleep! I think.

This afternoon as I sit at my desk, my tutor and I and discuss how likely it is that the tutors will be going on strike again this year. My tutor tells me that we shouldn't use the word 'scab' as it doesn't apply to artists, and they'll get offended. We question whether there has ever been collective solidarity between artists and if they really can be considered workers. But our talking begins to run tangents: we leave the formal and enter the intimate. Mouths and minds attuned to the unconscious and the sensed. 4am wakes, she tells me, have been scarring her nights all week. Fears about to many students and inadequate resources, ring around your head. Notes of impossible space allocation and impending isolation are played like strings on an out of tune guitar, draining your ears, theres no prospect of silence. There is no escaping the chores of the day by night and inadequacy begins to propagate a gap. A gap filled and fuelled with a distrust of uncertainty, its cloudy existence punctuated by every turn of the head, resistant. With every fumble of the duvet it strengthens.

 

Conclusion; what you, me, we, have in fact been occupied by is work, a collective illness that dries out our nights and makes them sleepless. Our subconscious and are thoughts are like washing machines, turning over and over, as we try to find clarity in the minefield of cloths and water. A minefield of repetition, exhaustion and alienation that is understood as ‘the day’. Despite this, we do not strike, we are not one force. We spend our days alone then wait to be collectively colonised by the stress dreams of the night. We haven't yet worked to undo these dreams generated within capitalist cycles of surpluses. How can we learn to survive within the radical spaces offered by the dream, rather than the gestures of work following us into our night.