London. The usual clouds, the usual forty-something degrees, and the usual misty drizzle. The sun goes down at 5:47pm, and it’s been a long strange week of giving presentations in an auditorium at an unholy hour in the morning. Sometimes C. and I spoke to a hundred teachers, sometimes two hundred fifth-graders. How much do they need to know about Dada? Maybe they already get it.

Last night I had a dream that my mom was calling me. I answered the phone and she was saying my name. I knew it was a dream, and I told her so. But no, she said, this was very real, and she was very much alive, and she was so sorry she had to go away, but now she was coming back.

Two hours later, I’m standing on a stage with C., presenting our work, and there’s a photograph of my mom on the massive screen behind us. She’s on a beach, a snapshot my father took a year before she died. Her image was meant to appear for only a second before discussing the work she inspired. But she’s glitching, frozen on the screen, although the slides on our laptop continue to advance as they’ve done countless times before. The photograph of my mom refuses to leave the auditorium. We jiggle the cords, but she’s still there, twenty feet tall and gazing at the water, her head turned away so you can hardly see her face. She remains there until the tech guy comes onstage, crouches over a box, and flips some switches.

There are 144 slides in that presentation deck. I do not dream about my mother often, certainly not about her calling me, telling me that she never died. Even my battered, disbelieving mind senses a frequency here. The odds are too great; the signal is too strong.

Pattern recognition, maybe. Baader-Meinhof, confirmation bias, or just a good old-fashioned coincidence. I’ve been reading John Berger this week. After I finished the last page of Confabulations and closed the book, I opened my inbox and found a newsletter from Sasha Frere-Jones that introduced me to Time Is Away’s magnificent mix featuring Berger reading from Pig Earth. (There’s also a dub version.) I’ve been listening to both mixes all week, and I can’t recommend them enough.

Berger speaks to the sensation of seeing my mother’s image linger in an auditorium, a sensation amplified by a dream: “Between the moment recorded and the present moment of looking at the photograph, there is an abyss . . . the photograph is more traumatic than most memories or mementos because it seems to confirm, prophetically, the later discontinuity created by the absence or death.”

Coincidence, probably, but why not believe moments like this point to something more interesting? Perhaps even something reassuring.

Time Is Away – Pig Earth Mix

NTS Radio, London, 4.01.22 | Soundcloud
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