dream listener : Festival Voix d’Amériques

February 5, 2007

Nous sommes tous des beaux rêveurs
We are all beautiful dreamers

Karen elaine spencer a présenté une performance/lecture de rêves au Festival Voix d’Amériques, le 5 février 2007 entre 17h-19h à la Casa del Popolo dans le cadre de la serie Text-Perplexed animée par Victoria Stanton.

Dream Listener - Festival Voix d’Amériques

As part of a segment of the spoken word Festival de Voix d’Amériques, dream listener recounted a narrative of her experiences. Perched on a tall stool in front of a microphone, she seemed tentative at first and alternated throughout between telling a story and reading dreams.

She stated early on, “these are not my stories, but they are my stories to tell.”

So much of what dream listener is about is the notion of “authorship” synonymous with ownership in our knowledge economy, where intellectual property becomes a hotly contested legal matter. In our economic structure, dreams are something from nothing. They are a common, shared creative experience with little value because it does not take great skill to do it. Dream listener also points out that in our economic structure sleeping is considered a waste of time, hence the expression, “sleeping on the job” or sleeping “too much.” Dreams are undervalued precisely because they come from this useless activity, and they in themselves cannot be bought or sold. Despite their pervasiveness dreams remain mysterious and with out convincing explanation – why do we dream?

By sharing her dreams in public they cease to be hers alone and enter the realm of the public commons even though they were originally the subconscious creation of her own cerebral activity. Likewise, on occasions when the public volunteer to share their dreams with her, they lose their ownership of the dream as it becomes secondary material in dream listener’s accumulation of narratives. There is something about this repurposing that is unsettling to dream listener. Perhaps the reason will become clear as she continues the “dream holding” phase of her activities.

For now, she holds her dreams in the street. She leaves the comfort of her home and family each day to work along side other people who inhabit the streets of Montréal. She has decided to do this in the middle of winter. It is not clear to her why she is standing there out on a street corner holding a large cardboard sign, sharing her dreams. Many people assume she is mentally ill and verbally abuse her, although others are genuinely curious.

Dream listener also visits the St. James drop-in centre once a week, a gathering place for people who used to make their lives on the street. One of her stories is about a man from the centre who once kept himself warm all winter by carrying a space heater and an extension cord in a backpack. At night he plugged in the heater at an exterior outlet to warm himself. People eventually stopped insisting that he go to a shelter because he always refused. Perhaps he preferred autonomy, or he was proud of his ingenuity. At any rate, his advice to Dream listener is to “always keep your own reason for being where you are.”

Most of all, through her gentle persistence she is building trust with individuals who inhabit, or once inhabited, the streets and they share their stories with her allowing her to pass them on to us. Perhaps this repurposing, or retelling of dreams and experiences will gain greater significance during the second phase of activity where Dream listener will collaborate with the CRUM and Homeless Nation to capture and record the dreams of the homeless and dispossessed. For people who “own” so little, and who are generally regarded as having little productive value, generating dreams remains within their potential. On the other hand, the activity of dreaming requires a specific type of sleep, can one achieve this level of sleep with out the stability of a “home”? Do homeless people dream? Do they remember if they do? What of the etymological relationship between dreams (sleeping) and dreams (aspirations)? [FT]

The resulting audio CD will be distributed on the Nuit des sans abris at Dare-Dare, Centre de diffusion d’art multidisciplinaire de Montréal.

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