the cornershop of daydreams
Without anyone noticing, the Cornershop of Daydreams has surfaced in the city of Kortrijk, slipped through the curtain and onto the stage. On the streetscape a door has been opened, and if you happen to wander along to the junction between Budastraat and Kapucijnenstraat, you may well overhear the rumblings of a daydream being intercepted. At the Cornershop we think of ourselves as an agency. In the first sense, we are an organisation lending out our skills, an agency. But in the second, the active sense, we are also in pursuit of agency, that is free and autonomous actions, for the city, the cityfolk, and all its non-human actors.
Much like the daydreams that we deal in, we are both affected by and effective in the city. We find ourselves as the new shopkeepers of this establishment, discovering what it means to keep the shop, keep the street, tend to it, as custodians rather than a proprietors. From our vantage point on the corner, we witness the world unfolding outside: a weary soul loaded with stretched shopping bags, workers repairing the road-markings, a washing machine at the curbside awaiting recovery, our friend the waiter taking a smoke break next door.
Via the thread of the present we also feel vibrations from the past. We feel the cold stone slabs underfoot, the easy-mop surfaces of the former butcher’s, find ourselves exposed by the long glass windows that once showcased hooks of dry-ageing carcasses, or offered glimpses of figures at the counter ordering strings of sausages.
Haunted places are the only ones people can live in- … [they] do not speak any more than they see. This is a sort of knowledge that remains silent. Only hints of what is known but unrevealed are passed on “just between you and me.”
- Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
To the keepers of the shop, street becomes world. If the street is a microcosm, the corner is a place between worlds, intermediary but quotidian. The corner is a pivot that guides you on your way to a daily destination, a spot on the pavement to check the time, have a piss or ask directions. But take a moment out of the transitory and step inside the Cornershop and herein is a warmth of organisation, a nook where all is attended to, where there are still hand-written price stickers, dusty ledges, impassioned greetings. The corner is marginal to the sterile logic of the daily, of 7pm closing times and uniforms, the corner may well be where the agency of the day lingers. There, easily within reach, on a corner shelf, above the magazines and lighters, a willpower you’ve only known in daydreams.
is this text dreamy and elusive? you may appreciate its tangible translation in the following rubric:
i: the daily (the location of our concern)
ii: the daydream (the medium we work with)
iii: mediators (a role was assume)
iv: mise-en-scène (a device for interaction)
i: the daily
At the Cornershop we are tasked to speculate on the future of the daily. In defining a dailyness, we come across a distinction between processes of the daily and their traces, from which we can read and inter-locate with them. Primarily we have been concerned with daily processes of labour as contributing to commodities, which in late capitalism exploit both domains of body and mind, as well as maintenance labours such as washing the dishes or preparing food. Both of these labours describe the conditions of each daily experience, affected somewhat by our personal choices, but mainly perpetuated by the designed limits of these freedoms. Traces, which may describe both the drudgery of this prescribed daily or small acts of autonomy from it, are regulated by time. They may compound or deepen like footfalls into stone treads, or be ephemeral, like receipts or sweet wrappers, released from view.
The labour to survive on a daily basis precedes ideology. But it’s important to appreciate how daily actions are implicated in much vaster situations. A plastic coffee cup will be jury to a longer history than its user. A faraway war in Korea demanding canvas for tents revives a waning linen industry in 1950s Kortrijk, jobs, wealth, new developments. Excepting moments of revolution, the working and underclass are subject to world events, their daily adapts accordingly. Drafting an early version of this text in the corner of a cafe, a laptop is ordered to be unplugged while a war is waged against Ukraine and a gas pipeline cut off; the price of a coffee is no longer the exchange rate for charging personal gadgets.
The dogma of both wage and domestic labours contribute to the reproduction of social inequalities. We imagine the daily as the smallest unit in a dialectical materialism in which our labours form the basis for society. This is a daily dominated by obligation, clock-time, the grind under systems of control, in which moments of freedom are regularly postponed into the future or reminisced about as long-past follies. Against this cultural hegemony, we challenge ourselves to answer: where in the daily are we emancipated? We follow our noses between schedules towards spontaneity, play, heartfelt connection. Can the schedule itself be disrupted by these acts?
ii: the daydream
From our Cornershop we venture into the city, at first like travellers adrift. We piece together streets, buildings, interactions into an image. Are we ourselves intrusions into some other daily? Or are the recurring characters we meet lost in our daydream? We act as other to the assumptions and forecasts of the city, we are scribbling in the margins metaphors discovered in a draft of Duvel. An important discovery is made: all can daydream. A person can daydream, so too a dog, a gaggle of geese, a housing estate, the weather.
A daydream is a scribble in the margins of the day’s relentless to-do list. Whether a wilful strike from a full afternoon at work, or an accidental indulgence, the daydream disrupts productivity and re-centres speculation and passion. In our current context, rest can be seen as a radical action, and even more radical is a restful res-ist-ance, a restful re-imagining. In characterising the daydream, we can’t help but hear the city around us. In a city built on the laundering and bleaching of fibres, on the constant remaking of the tabula rasa, a pathology of tidying can be read. Here the palimpsest, the tendency to accumulate, threatens the efficient reproduction of daily conditions, is an obstacle to the flow of the ordinary and predictable.
Often concurrent with actual domestic tasks, the daydream ensues with a contrasting impulse, to let in the clutter, to permit the extraordinary where it surely doesn’t belong or has not yet arrived. In this way the daydream honours the true fragmentary conditions of the daily, conjures theses traces that are washed out or forgotten, and draws them together in an intimate landscape where the sideways, the dirty and secretive become agents of meaning.
Still we wonder, a layer deeper than this reading, what if the daydream is performing a kind of reproductive labour itself? What if this clutter represents the haphazard reorganising of a room being vacuumed? What if it arrives like a great flood, displacing fact and fantasy, but also stirring the grime, blocked pipes, loosening and washing away the sediment of the mind? Relieving the tensions of one day and making way for more emboldened action in the next.
Whether emptying out or repopulating a cognitive space, the daydream is a departure from the smooth running of tasks. It is the joker being played into the game. A deck of cards in many ways resembles the calendar year, into which the joker injects a disorder, reversing play, altering the rules. But can these disruptions be more than momentary, every leap-year?
We position ourselves as mediators of cumulative deviance. If daydreaming could be understood as an energy resource, something that we are all generating in isolation, what would happen if we could collectivise this resource, make it public and give it agency in the world? Could this potentiality become a critical mass, transformative, could it transgress the conditions of everyday life as they are?
Wherever agencies are greatly suppressed, we find a density of daydreaming. Here actors construct their own alternatives, but are also dreaming. As mediators, we locate and materialise their daydreaming energy. This is not a daydream becoming real, nor is it a platform to generate new daydreams. Rather, it is a breach at the borders of the day’s real-life through which a daydream begins to speak of yet unspoken futures.
At the Cornershop of Daydreams we make a context for the daydream to speak, using resources of memory and ongoing conversations. The Cornershop supplies the ingredients: a scenography of space, objects and invited agents. The context is staged but activated by real people in the city, and prompts a performance or participation. Juxtaposition between spaces and events which are not usually associated aim to create peculiar encounters; we make strange the landscape of the daily, and therefore enable it to mutate.
These unique scenes should challenge people to test ways of sharing in possibilities that seem far-fetched or beyond personal control. The Cornershop of Daydreams doesn’t predict the future of daily life but motivates curious encounters so that the communities are triggered to collectively imagine the ‘other’. Glimpses of this other daily could be found in events such as hip hop sessions in a teacup, midnight poetry workshops and having lunch.