I’ve been dreaming about flowers. Dry, high-hanging fruit. The sorts of flowers that exist only in lore – buttermilk yellow, neoprene blue, post-it pink. They dangle gauze-like, shimmering through a soft, wheaty light that pours through cracks in a sun-bleached wall. These flowers are dead, processed, prepared. They are fragile, serene, shivering in the wake of my shallow, sleeping breath.
This place is cosmic, eternal, fading, lost. The kind of room in which you might knead dough, tread grapes, or butcher meat. Beneath the flowers sit rows of willow-woven baskets, full of nothing. They could have grown here; they might have fallen from a tree. They are too far away to touch. No one enters my dream, but I see shadows traced across the ground. The self-contained stillness of it all allows my mind to wander inwards. I squint to see a version of myself standing still in the rafters above, fingering bundles of dried leaves. I recognise the single arm stretched behind my back, hand pressed against the sacrum. This is a dream in which I gaze at myself, and I never look back.
Reenchanting our realities with a multitude of worlds is perhaps the most pressing need of our collective now. Imagination is a personal act – a primordial part of the forever-game of human-ing. Within us are imagined figures: brief encounters, some who have grown with us since childhood, or those who have been present long before we knew to breathe. Cardinal voices that echo across our lived experience and whisper to us with intention. These imagined figures may be somehow tangible—mom?—or may exist far out of the habitable world. Gendered, non-gendered, wholly alien, queer-as-fuck: bodily outlines, continuously in transition, haunt and nourish our inner and outer realms. There are, I’d wager, a multitude of beings that we speak with, engage in emotional dialogue, hide from view, grow alongside and through and, perhaps eventually, reveal and give shape to. We might only glimpse them in frames, manifesting as containers or vessels: words and gestures, objects and materials, manipulations in space. Each figure seeks expression through a single body’s many masks. Offering space for our many selves is muddy, vital work.
If we consider this world as nothing but a springboard (of infinite, gamified complexity) then we acknowledge that it can be played with, or challenged. Most avenues (read: consequences) that we take are the result of choices. Making a choice is one of the basic tenets of world-glimpsing. What do I wear? Should I say these words out loud? If the act of choice-making defines the unspoken trajectories of the everyday, manufacturing a choice often feels impractical – limited to the realms of nightdream, daydream, and fantasy. Not merely making a choice, but actively creating one, untethers the self from its own sense of truth. It’s an unstable condition to enter into: a space of memory, trauma, desire. It nurtures a spectral sense of who we were and how we find ourselves. It is for this reason, among many others, that world-glimpsing is not identical to world-building, which takes into account the realm of the non-human and the systems of definition that ambush us day to day. World-glimpsing centres the self as independent, autonomous, yet kindred. It makes room for the more-than-human, embraces the dissonance of it all, and concedes to the infinite malleability of things. It has no goal, nor promises resolution.
Dreamscapes, states of flow that fuse the fabulous and the frightening, are one way in which to glimpse other worlds. To dwell in the complexity of the sleeping self unstitches a seam towards other ways of interfacing with the mystery of our psyche, and the mystery of others. If we strive to untangle our person from the carcinogen of normative behaviour, we can animate our multitudinous mess of thoughts and emotions, invite others to exist beside them, and live to see what might happen as a result. We only entertain this world (the world I am writing from and that you, perhaps, are reading in) as the world because it is, as most have been taught to believe, all ‘flesh and blood’. We crowbar our many selves into one corporeal body because it is acknowledged by others in return negatively, positively, or neutrally, and so the illusion is sustained. This world of blood and flesh consumes our scope to glimpse between and beyond. If we are to step into a landscape defined by uncertainty, a space that is sometimes overwhelming but often empowering, then we must humanise ourselves with, alongside, and for the sake of others. Without world-glimpsing, this world will be the one that ultimately liquidates our grasp of who we really are.
Kindling new narratives is a mode of world-glimpsing. Often transferred through words—written, scratched, engraved, ritually spoken or sung—works of imagination, such as stories, resonate through people and places and transform, once in a while, into myth or lore. These stories are durational, built across time, and have no certain point of origin. While many stories tie us to the tangible world, some are capable of releasing us. Those able to untangle us from the taught narratives we live within are outside of linear time, detached from reality – a nebulous blend of what we can perceive with that which we yet cannot. Glimpsing new worlds through story-sharing is, at its most powerful, not a mere stumble nor the result of a coincidence. It is the carefully articulated result of a heightened attention towards the complexity of our own thoughts, our collective desires, and our interdependence to our imaginative potential.
Often connected to a place—rooms and edifices, things against our skin, images, sounds, and scents—nostalgia (a disused, dirty word) is a form of world-glimpsing that offers comfort and deceit in equal measure. It is the subliminally processed past manifesting in the present. In the steady journey towards the interior self, nostalgia can sometimes feel to be the only thing that holds our-selves together. It is an immensely inadequate feeling. Nothing can mimic a missed sense of security, the touch of an abandoned other, or the lost rootedness of a place. Although a useful mechanism for wistful longing, or for fostering a sense of belonging, nostalgia can be far more powerful as a tool. It distorts what we remember and deforms how we recall, opening a door to the abstract and the uncanny. Autonomous from the many selves that make up who we are and who we wish to become, nostalgia invites us to imagine through our yearning, our hunger, our lust.
Reality may be irrefutable, but it is bendable. Apparitions from our pasts may be inevitable, but they are pliable. Glitches may be constant, but they are invitations. Glimpses into different worlds can be birthed through imagination: inhabited, reformed, discarded. Once alive, they live or die in the hands of their source – and in the hands of a multitude of others. It is a plurality of worlds that nourishes the world in which we find ourselves: worlds of yous.
Nov 10 — Jan 12, 2024
Július Koller Society, Bratislava, Slovakia