I guess Barbie Dreamhouse: An Architectural Survey (mentioned in my “gift guide” post) is already sold out, as is Buffalo Hotel Chelsea. Maybe I will post my contributions to these books in another letter. For now, I wrote a story for an online exhibition called, coincidentally, Dreamhouses, using a work by Laurie Simmons as its prompt. You can read it and the other “exquisite corpse collaborations” here.
Speaking of, have you ever been to the Dream House in Manhattan? I went only once, with an ex—who now believes in all those things about which you wonder who would believe that?—not while we were dating but way after, when we were trying to be friends. It’s on Church Street just below Canal, marked by a tiny, missable sign. I haven’t been back in many years and heard that the sign is gone, now. Maybe the whole thing is gone.
It’s one of those places I went in thinking I knew: the room is the art, the visitors and their bewildered interactions, ambient sound that plays forever, slow-pulsing neon installations, the longer you stay the better. What I mean is I’ve been to a lot of durational art projects, but this one was different, for me. The relationship I had with my ex had been teased out in every direction, our meet-ups always long and empty, neither of us giving in to the truth, that closure doesn’t exist. He didn’t even like the beach, so why did we go, that one time? He didn’t see my apartment or meet my roommates, which was what I was after; he just called from outside, said he’d be waiting downstairs.
And then he told me about Le Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, a married couple that made the Dream House together, she the light and he the sound, and we went after I got out of work—my office was just two blocks away, I said, but he wanted to wait for me down the street. It had been there, above the couple’s loft, in 1966, and then it had traveled all over the world, and then it had returned to the TriBeCa address in 1993, and was ongoing ever since, according to some literature.
The concept is high, something about sound waves that propel themselves, grow in a sense, which means the space, by some definitions, is alive. I was nervous, imagined lying on a floor with un-deodorized guests and confronting what was happening in my life. What were we trying to salvage? We had not started out as friends, even if that’s what we had told ourselves. We had to take off our shoes and put our coats in an open cubby.
How did it become so imbalanced? I’d said to him and to my family that I would never move to New York like he did, that it was too expected, too expensive, too cold. But I had a job already, one that was at least better than his on paper, and I had friends, went to parties, met so many interesting people. He didn’t want any of that, he let me know, not in the way I did, stabbing the air out of everything I said.
And then, I don’t know, I can’t explain it, but the Dream House spread a layer over us, baked us solid in a glowing oven. Maybe it’s what sensory deprivation does, except this was more like sensory overload. Some excess was burned off, a torch taken to meringue. I wasn’t totally cured, but something had changed. Afterwards, I partially attributed the feeling to him, because he’d taken me there, and the process of counterbalancing restarted. But that’s what a dream is like: everything is possible because it is only the mind that is being inhabited and then you wake up and it’s all over, what a waste of time, but it’s nice to have something else in control, something without your own best interests guiding it, because you were wrong, they weren’t the best (and then you fall asleep again).