Panpsychic Household Solutions
A life/art project that began as a way to work with my altered states of mind.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although this was almost certainly a misdiagnosis, it is true that I had (and still do have) an unusual and difficult inner environment. The standard medical advice, that altered states are meaningless except insofar as they are a symptom of an illness to be controlled with medication, didn't work for me. Medication and other standard interventions work for some people, which is wonderful, but for others, like myself, this approach doesn't help, and sometimes makes things much worse. Because I couldn't rely on standard medical help to guide me through the rocky terrain of my inner life, I had to find my own way through. Panpsychic Household Solutions was one of the paths I traced through that country.
In public, the project took the form of a blog and eventually a workshop held at SEVENTH Gallery in 2013. Here is how I originally described the project:
This project began when I decided to use psychosis as the foundation for ethical and poetic action. An explanation is necessary: I have a mental illness which causes me to perceive the world in an unusual way. Sometimes I can see the walls breathing; sometimes passing cars are speaking to me; sometimes inanimate objects are not only alive and mobile, but also sentient and interested in communicating with me.
This is psychosis. Most people would say that these perceptions were hallucinations and delusions. However, this does not change the fact that these are my basic perceptions. To say that my immediate experience here is meaningless or disordered is to deny me the right to a worldview which is consistent with my most deeply-held convictions and perceptions. If I cannot construct a meaningful system of action based on my own thoughts and experiences, I can only expect to spend my life feeling disempowered, ill and worthless.
Not wishing to spend my life in the aforementioned manner, I have spent some time investigating and developing my psychotic perceptions with the aim of finding a way of life which is consistent with them.
My way of life revolves around an appreciation for the sentience of all things. This appreciation currently manifests itself in the domain of housework. Careful, mindful, joyful household tasks allow me to relate with the objects and spaces that surround me.
I have become interested in the spaces of others. I want to know whether the relations other people have with their homes change the way those homes relate with themselves and their occupants. I want to widen my non-human social circle. The way to do this is to clean other people’s homes.
That’s pretty much the bulk of it – I want to visit your dwelling-place and clean it. I won’t necessarily do a perfect, thorough job; I may only clean one or two rooms. But I am not asking for monetary payment. All I ask is that you welcome me with good grace, and allow me to photograph the features of your home that reach out to me for inclusion on this website.
I would no longer describe the above mentioned experiences as "psychosis", but that was the language I had been obliged to adopt in my dealings with the psychiatric system. Much as land reclamation machinery pumps water from plains that lie below sea level in a neverending attempt to hold back the waves, I used and misused the medical terminology that had been applied to me in an attempt to reclaim my life's flooded inland.
I have edited and republished my house cleaning and workshop documentation here:
Carolyn's House #1
Carolyn's House #2
Carolyn's House #3
Carolyn's House #4
Alanna Lorenzon wrote a review of the project in Un Magazine.