Quarantine Dream Zine is a zine about waking up and listening to our dreams. It is about the political unconscious, revolutionary surrealism and the role the imagination plays in envisioning otherworlds. It features dream comics, musings on Chinese dream culture, poetry and descriptions of vivid dreams over the period of being in quarantine for a year in Tkaronto, reflecting feelings of homesickness, genderqueerness, pandemic anxieties, dread and non-linear time.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been able to remember more of my dreams. After being in quarantine for over a whole year, I have been paying more attention to them. Like many other people, zombie dreams were recurring in the beginnings of the pandemic. And then, mask anxiety dreams.
In the middle of a crowd or in a classroom, nobody is wearing a mask. I realise I am not either and I am fumbling in my pocket to find my own.
All of these dreams have been so vivid, demanding my waking attention.
In the future, we are all living in an underwater world. The sea levels have risen so high that all land is submerged, but underwater cities are allowing humanity to survive. I have an octopus friend and I am tending to my seaweed garden bed.
So over the last year, I have tried to document, write them down or make art from these dreams. The more I started taking my dreams seriously, the more I wondered about their meanings. Interpreting some of them has given me some incredible political insights.
As activists, we talk about political consciousness a lot. Political consciousness is a way to escape the ideological grip of colonial and racial capitalism. We do a lot of consciousness-raising in the hopes that it can lead to meaningful change. We place value on being politically “conscious” and “woke.” There’s an interpretation of certain kinds of racism or sexism as “unconscious bias.” So consciousness = good, something we should grow, and unconsciousness = bad. But as activists, dreams have also been important, dreaming is part of praxis – we dream of better worlds, but we use ‘dreams’ more to mean our desires and future visioning.
But it’s rare that we talk about literal dreams, dreams we have when we are asleep. Maybe because of Euro-colonial patriarchal obsessions with the “rational mind”. We still privilege being “conscious”. What if our consciousness, subconscious and unconscious are not neat divisions? We think about dreams in our waking state, and we dream about people and places in our dream world. We daydream. What if we listened to our unconsciousness, our dream states, as a source of wisdom, theory and knowledge?
Much love and appreciation for Dr. Arama Rata, Mehwish Mughal, and Kassie Hartendorp who first read over this and gave me encouraging feedback. Special thanks to Dr. Jin Haritaworn, Sunanda Mesquita (@decolonialkilljoy) and the students in Jin’s ENVS class for their questions and inspiring conversations on art and activism! This thinking never happens in isolation.