Freud, in his big book of dreams, claims that the grammar of dreams is a negotiation of the past and the future pressed through the preoccupations and happenstance of the present. A dream, for Freud, roughly follows patterns inherited from the past, driven by a wish for the future (that the dream might fulfil in some way), thrown together with what Freud calls the day’s residues (the remains of the day). You can see the truth of some of this when you work out that this or that bit of your dream is borrowed from last night’s barely registered television watching.
More and more I think of the patterns of the past taking the form of distinctive cartographies. Over and over I’m locked into an oneiric commute, or else I’m having to deal with situations within a particular house. The trouble with these commutes and with the dream houses I occupy is that are determinedly impossible and unmanageable (or rather they follow their own dream logic). One of my dream commutes has me having to catch a bus ‘home’. I’m late of course and the last bus will be leaving soon. I know where the bus stop is, and all I have to do is go to that bit of town and catch the bus. The only trouble is that the dream confuses me as to where I am. I know the part of town precisely: it is a street that starts wide and gets narrower as it moves away from the centre of town; it has some shops (for instance a large furniture shop that is sometimes a musical instrument shop or a sweet shop), and the street gives way to more and more domestic houses, some very old, as the street narrows. It is not a salubrious part of town: perhaps students live here; perhaps some of the houses are used by small-time lawyers and insurance companies. I need to go either east or west but my sense of direction and my sense of the route I need to take is based on a quite different urban landscape. It’s as if I’m trying to find my way around Berlin using a map of Paris (an old Situationist ploy): or to get more of a sense of the regional scale of these dreams – it’s as if I’m trying to find my way around Colchester in Essex with a map of some other small regional town.
The houses that I inhabit in dreams all seem very familiar. Perhaps an amalgam of houses that I lived in my twenties when I moved house a couple of times a year. The houses have too many rooms and there is always a room that throws the logic of the house out of joint: for instance a small terraced house might have a small container ship as part of the basement. The container ship might be small (for a container ship) but it is gargantuan compared to the scale of the house. [I get excited thinking that one of the containers would make a good studio.]
My dreams are made up of the edges of things: the edges of town; the corridors between rooms; the patch of packed earth near a small copse on the edge of a playground. Whatever there is at the centre is of no concern of mine.