Community dreams (Tbilisi)
It must have been Cortázar who convinced me that dreams have everything to do with fuzz. They crawl at night underneath your bed, and while you are busy dreaming something else, hide in a corner for months or years, waiting to be wiped away or awakened. Dreams rise and fall while we go about our daily chores, passing inadvertently by, leaving just a trace, maybe a faint smile. And only sometimes, once in a million times, we are able to catch them in flight, to look at them straight and hail “hey! you! you are what I’ve been dreaming of!” Following them is another story.
Our first steps of the year were taken at a hippodrome, an old abandoned building of Tbilisi, now occupied by a mixed group of dreamers. Unbalanced in the dark, we made our way through a tiny path in the forest, and onto the kitchen fire for new year’s celebration. And right there we knew, all the fuzz and dust around, the tattered futon and the old chairs spoke of years, of centuries or maybe even more, of accumulated dreams, of daytime chimeras, of night fancy, of wishes and revelations. Vegan signs that dreamt of a cruelty free kitchen, a free market that dreamt of a money-less world, graffities that hoped for prettier walls, Monica who dreamt of a community, Mariam who had always wished for a hippy family, a camel that dreamt of anther camel, Andrei who was living his dream, Lasha, Vato, Besik, David, Natalia, Mamuka – well, we never got to know the secret of his dreams.
“Want me, find me, make me real”. They had all come together long before we arrived and the place was well set up for tea and soup, for ideas, actions, gigs and art – a tent in the yard, a stove, plates and cups, a sound system and all! – ready for them and for anyone who came. In the spirit of the European Social Centers, they gathered themselves in a collective and got permission to use the huge building as a hub, as a free space, as their safe place. They called themselves ACCT (Alternative Arts Center Tbilisi) and were there for creative action – from Guerilla Gardening and Food-Not-Bombs to dreamcatching workshops and music in town. Acting was all they wanted. It was up and running by the time we arrived, two more dreamers that imagined winter would not be cold if one could fly with the wind; two that followed their chimera of a borderless map, crossing the continent East with a (quasi) impossible plan. And we joined a silent crowd around the fire, in a room of dust and fluff and old dreams waiting to be hailed and followed with the new year.
There is some pleasure in cleaning, like dusting off layers of what is no longer needed. Cleaning in company makes our hands dirty but ourselves shine. The space is huge, but so is the number of people who have come to help on an improvised call for cleaners. Nobody needs to ask what is to be done, the mess is obvious and each one gets busy with his favourite task (!?) Collecting plastic, cloth, branches and old stuff – contemporary archeology of the place; dusting the camel, washing dishes, cutting wood, burning trash. Who said there is no subtle joy in cleaning? And while the big bags get filled with waste the minds work plans in between chats. “This yard will make a great juice bar in spring” “Bunting and lights is all it needs” “What about watching stars on the roof?” “How many bags do you guess we can fill?” “Are we gonna cook soup when we are over?” “We need to get ready with community gardening” “Strawberries, spring onion, mint…” “Juices and teas for summer evenings” – cleaning was just the excuse to let all flow.
Oatmeal biscuits, beetroot soup. For us the hippodrome feeling extended beyond the crumbling building and traveled on foot, by bike or through the dark tunnels of Tbilisi’s underground to the 5th floor of a building. It could be any building and any flat, large or tiny, in any town of the world. It could be a garden, it could be a beach, a house on a tree, a shelter in the mountain. The place that travellers dream of, the one they make. And it was because of her, a blond dreamer of unimaginable powers lighthearted like none, that we stayed in Tbilisi sheltered from the winter frost in her travellers den. Baking biscuits, cooking soup, mixing ideas with raisins and dark chocolate, dreaming while peeling potatoes when in good mood, crying with onions in the harder times. And it was because of her, and Anna and Andrei, and all of those who came and went, that we found a corner in the city, among paper lotus flowers and spiced teas, in between their walls and next to them. A corner and a way to help.
20 kilos of recycled paper can make anything come true. Add borrowed cardboard, yards of colourful thread, glue dropping from somebody’s hands, a pinch of laughter and some spoons of enthusiasm. It looked like the dreamers had gone to sleep after Georgia’s second new year and Monica was looking for the magic spell to wake them up. 20 kilos of paper and it was done! Everyone has something to tell, to write, to draw, to hide. Everyone loves a diary, a book, a page for a thought. And everyone sunk with pleasure into the idea that “we teach you the first step, then you teach it to the next”. We can’t count the hours we spent near the fire crafting books of brown paper, neither the people or how many languages were used in mixing papercuts with tea, biscuits with sewing, fruits with compliments for the finished books of art. And we can’t count the results, because they flew in all directions. A juggling workshop, something on electronics, what about free market next sunday, and who spoke about a full moon party? Critical mass is a must! The new excuse to gather had made its magic once again and this workshop would become one amongst many, one in the flow of action, in the story of hippodrome’s afternoons.
Waking up is hard, specially when the dreams are sweet. They were flowing, it was happening again. 5 clowns on wheels had arrived from far way, volunteers, activists and a photographer or two. Parents, and kids, and some young lads from the hood. Cutting wood, running workshops, making calls. ACCT was acting, the old building was alive. Until one unhappy morning, the bell rang with fury. The fun was over. Wake up. This is not your place “it is mine – mine – mine” – a voice still resonates in our nightmares. And out came the rage of words unsaid, of silent conflicts, of what is mine and what it yours, and what is nobody’s so everybody’s. The bell rang for the peaceful ones to wake up, to remember that community dreams are made of tiny parts, and it’s a tough work to find room for all voices, to let all the tunes play when one of them is louder, when the rest do not sing in choral harmony. Wake up to remember you forgot to call for assembly, to call for the voices to speak. Wake up to remember that your dreams are fragile, that anyone can locked them in a dark room – if you let them to.
They packed, they left. And we with them. Gathered everything in boxes and bags, kettle here, chairs over there, collected the pictures from the walls in between confused stares, anger or tears. In broken pieces we left, and the room stayed silent. The place that could be everything was nothing anymore. Locked for dreams of summer yards, of gardens or stars. They left and went their ways. And somewhere else, then and now, they are following their dreams of travel, of poetry, of strawberries, of films. Somewhere else they find space to meditate. Somewhere else, they ride bikes in mass or join other dreamers in building tree houses that will be inhabited by other ones in turn. Somewhere else they keep chasing fluff and birds, remembering just sometimes that once they made it true. That once they lit a fire in a dark kitchen and painted their dreams in big letters over dirty walls, and played to be whatever they wanted, shared everything they had. That once, a building was theirs. And now they know that they do not need walls any longer.