Jason Pine and Kathleen Stewart
Recommended citation: Pine, J., and Stewart, K. (2020). ‘Home is a Waking Dream’, entanglements, 3(2): 123-126
Home has become wherever you were when it started, if you didn’t get a lucky break. You felt you had to set up, hoard and hole up, and fast. You didn’t know how long it would last and what was to come next.
The technological virtual has fanned out dramatically, but so too has the other virtual that Deleuze describes as the wealth of indistinct potentiality before things get actualized. Today this virtual is laden with restive unknowing.
For a long time, interactions were reduced and condensed. If they were in-person, you didn’t have full faces or clear voices to go on, and the distance strained one or all parties, filling spaces with nervous affect. That has since gotten relaxed, more or less, and the more or less is what makes it uneasy. All behavior is under suspicion. More or less.
It wasn’t just that the world changed, but that it fell away. Homebound and tethered within a personal radius, you lose the sense of what you thought made you. Your memories, lodged in situations and places out there, became a flickering. You are in-filled, by turns, with the material universe of your shrunken little world –the chores and the busywork and the paling objects you’re surrounded with hour after hour– and with the big world that you once knew and now dream of returning to.
But what in-fills you is not as enigmatic as what left you when you hollowed out. It’s not only that memories fade or become mythologized, too big to fit. It’s not only that plans and aspirations are whittled down to possibly maybe. It’s not only that the tactility of the world has become a hazard.
There’s so much going on at home, and yet so little. Anthropology of home is like carefully watching Akerman’s Jeanne Diehlman, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles or Warhol’s Sleep, looking for what went away when we hollowed out.
In what emptied out, atmospheres echoed. Other people became a problem or something to see. Faces opening like cut flowers, beautiful and already halfway to decay.
The everyday showed up tenuous, visceral, mobile, invasive. At Buy Nothing you find a baby gate for your dog, get rid of your extra shovel, or sign up for local fruits and veggies because you want to see what’s in the box when it comes. Algorithms set in motion by YouTube and Facebook likes, amazon search histories, app downloads, or on-line petitions can take you into Kayaking and the natural history of rivers, or an addiction to looking at houses on Trulia, or monthly payments to have your body turned into two cubic yards of compost when you die.
I dream again of discovering again a forgotten house that’s somehow mine.
I mine the detritus of stuffed closets, cringing at the plastic decomp: 80s pastel sheets, half-empty conditioners, lotions, Pepto-Bismol, someone’s little boxes for sleep or pain now smeared and stained.
The house opens, room after room, in the wandering labor of sense. The whole upstairs is a study from the fifties, the desk crammed with Pop’s papers and photographs, a project deflected as the dream folds again into a vast warehouse crammed with antique treasures down the road or down the path at the back of the property. Everything is now both public and private, possible for me but I need an entrance permit.
The house is a vast modern shack full of hippies cooking bread and eggs with sprouts, the bedrooms are endless, mattresses on the wide plank hardwood floors, sheets twisted, hard to say whether they’re occupied and in what sense.
The old hippie bread lady in the Vermont village lives off the grid. Summer and fall she bakes in the wood-fired oven in the yard and then unceremoniously throws the loaves of bread, unbagged, in the back of her truck and takes them to the farmer’smarket where they become precious.
I dream of walking past pricey old houses with entirely glass fronts. They overlook beautiful scenes but they’re in town, the word Newburyport comes to mind. It’s winter, cold, the street is narrow, then I’m trying to climb a steep hill of mud, plants shooting around little stone steps half the size of a foot, more natural than human-made, searching for a footing, heaving the weight of my body with each step.
Kathleen Stewart – Katie teaches anthropology and writing at the University of Texas, Austin. Her books include A Space on the Side of the Road, Ordinary Affects, The Hundreds (with Lauren Berlant) and currently Worlding.
Jason Pine teaches anthropology and media studies at Purchase College, State University of New York. His books include The Art of Making Do In Naples, The Alchemy of Meth: A Decomposition and currently We’re Leaving You.