One of my favorite ever conference “presentations” was something that began as a joke. Greg Seigworth (and old friend from grad school) was organizing a conference on affect, and had included a specific request in the call for papers to “Wreck The Format” (WTF) with non-traditional ways of engaging with the conference and its theme. Flippantly, I messaged him and suggested that I wanted to show up and do performative readings of his dreams (which he shares versions of on Facebook on a semi-regular basis). He liked the idea. More than that, the other conference organizers liked the idea.
And so I happily spent a long October weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania wandering the halls and meeting rooms of Greg’s conference wearing a sandwich board invitation/provocation (visual evidence is below), carrying a giant stack of Greg’s dreams recorded on index cards, and sharing them with anyone foolish (brave?) enough to request one.
The initial set-up came during Greg’s welcoming speech on the conference’s first night, when I “spontaneously” interrupted him (i.e., we set this bit up in advance) at a moment when he said something about how he had dreamed of this conference. And that was my cue…
In Life After God, Douglas Coupland writes: “If we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection — certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real — this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.”
My happy task, over the next three and a half days, is to reveal “another life altogether” to you. A life of “small moments” that have gradually accumulated over the past eight years or so. This other life, these “small moments,” belong to Greg Seigworth who, since 2007, has made a semi-regular habit of sharing his dreams on Facebook. Let me provide you with a brief sample or three:
March 13, 2012: I knew almost immediately in my dream that it was a mistake to invite Wolf Blitzer along on my stagecoach.
January 11, 2013: I dreamt that once a year the entirety of the world’s war dead were buried in a extravagant funeral procession that stretched hundreds of miles and it was all broadcast live. Except the US made certain nations’ dead invisible in the live feed of the event so I went to see it in person, and the dead and their stream of mourners were still invisible (which made it also very dangerous because you could get crushed by their invisible procession anyway). I retreated to a cabin and Pat Boone kept knocking on my door and asking me for directions to a good place to eat. And every time I answered the door there were more and more tanned and smiling Christians standing alongside him.
April 11, 2013: I cannot remember any specific dream contents but the last sentence that I spoke was: “Being a ballet dancer of course you understand what I mean.”
I will not attempt to describe or analyze Greg’s dreams for you. That would, after all, be a semi-traditional sort of conference presentation. And I am here to wreck the format. Or at least to bend it a bit. What I have in my hands is a stack of more than 120 index cards, each of which contains one of Greg’s dreams, just as he posted them. Over the next three days and change, I will share these “small moments” in random order and at random locations around the conference. Find me in the hallways, and I will share a Greg-dream with you. Request a Greg-dream instead of a traditional question during the discussion after your panel. Watch for spontaneous Greg-dream recitations during the coffee breaks. And then some. For now, I will leave you with Greg’s most recently shared dream:
October 5, 2015: I dreamed that I’d rented a downtown hotel room during #affectWTF for the conference animals: a platypus & a bald eagle. I was trying to get a quick nap and the platypus was snuggled beside me. But the eagle was restless and kept trying to squat on my head. (I remember thinking: ‘Someone has surely had the bird out for its potty break…’) Soon enough though it shot a stream of shit across my face and all six hotel beds. Six? How many animals am I expecting? I asked myself while gargling.