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Roaming Around A Destroyed House

for the Wedding Cake House Book

This was written for a book released as part of the Wedding Cake House project, by the Dirt Palace. The Wedding Cake House is a weird old house that they are renovating into a small weird hotel, and they got a lot of artists to contribute work to the house, the book, and to a series of performances. I'm posting this because I can't find anywhere online that you can buy the book.

Roaming Around A Destroyed House

I spent a lot of time in late adolescence exploring abandoned buildings- mills, factories, offices, some houses. Now I find a lot of my dreams are set in places like that- a vast interconnected structure made of all the liminal places I've been, set in the time period between them enacting their original purpose (factory, office, home) and them getting knocked down or renovated. In my dream this huge structure is both my home and a place I don't want to get caught in-- I belong there the same way a family of raccoons belongs in an underused garage.

In my dreams I'm cackling and howling, booking it through tight corridors and steep twisting stairwells. But most of my real life experiences in places like this were marked by a calm but heightened awareness. Oftentimes I'd walk around extremely slow and quietly, wondering what I would do if it were my building. Where would I put my bed? where would I sit and drink coffee when I woke up? where would I have bands play? where's the woodshop going to go? In some cases this wasn't all reverie-- I remember fondly the abandoned factory in Worcester we used to break into, which had a small skatepark, an ersatz gallery, and a show space where the Atrocious Kids played, and where I stayed up all night at a huge and extremely fun rave that never got busted.

A very small part of this huge and labyrinthine complex was still in use and the chaos part faded into the warehouse part with no door or border between them. I was there once with Little Andrew, we got lost and ended up in a grey zone, and a worker on a forklift drove across the room not 20 feet in front of us, headphones on, with no idea we were there. It was half like seeing a ghost and half like being a ghost.

Mike T used to rent a studio space in the Mercantile building in downtown Providence, when the building was probably at its most run-down. For a few nonconsecutive nights in the previous year there was an underground music venue in one of the rooms. No one had rented it, they just figured out a way in and decided it would be ok. Check the archives for shows at "Harsh 70's Reality". Just before AS220 took over the building but after everyone had left, Mike had an art show with a few people there and invited me to make an installation. I spent a lot of time just roaming around in the wide variety of abandoned zones. There were wood panelled offices, art studios, carpetted dens, all abandoned and full of the sort of crap you don't care to take with you when you leave a rental.

It feels timeless and eternal to be in a space like that, seeing the paint in mid-peel. Not timeless like "frozen" or "lasting forever" but like I'm watching from the wings of the auditorium, watching time on stage do its thing.

It was a different feeling wandering around this house (the house the book is about) as renovations were already underway when I showed up and furthermore I was invited. I was still wandering around a destroyed house, but I felt like I was onstage this time, watching time speeding up, being time. It was hard to picture the house in a functioning state, one in which each window has glass in it, and all the light switches work. It was very easy to jump past that, into the next era of disrepair. The new plaster will crack like the old plaster did, the roof one day won't get fixed, the floorboards will bow up again. I wonder if a mouse is going to shred this book for bedding? And if so, how close will this shred get to the Georgia state quarter I dropped in the wall during renovations? How long until the whole thing is back to being a creepy old house with leperous ornaments, and what's the story going to be like then? Will there be an armoir full of rotting silk left behind, as there was the first time I visited? Where will I put my bed, the woodshop, the community room? If the roof blows off while I'm in bed will I run away or lay there yelling at the wind, being the wind?

-- Jacob Berendes
October 31st 2018