Finding ‘Divine Nonchalance’

Artist Jeff Hull took over the city of San Francisco to create the worlds first, citywide alternate reality game. Starting in 2008, peculiar fliers were posted through out San Francisco and managed to catch the eye of over 10,000 ordinary residents over the three years the game occurred. Hull’s interactive project had the whole city involved, small bookstores and even the San Francisco Police Department. As abstract and strange as the game was, it set out what it wanted to achieve: it brought the ‘outcasts’ of a city together.

Posters advertising ‘The Jejune Institute.’

The main topic that was discussed in ‘The Institute’ was around the subject of how surroundings can affect a person. A persons surroundings will be a major influence on how someone thinks, acts, and is, as a human being. Director Spencer McCall presents these ideas through interviews with multiple participants of the art project/alternate reality game and even the game’s designers and organizers. The participants involved would discuss their experiences through the different ‘acts’ of the game, and the emotions they felt at that moment. While being interviewed, video clips displaying their experience, either from their own hand held devices, or various hidden cameras that were planted around the city, or shots of key items or incidents would occasionally be shown to make the viewer feel like they were part of the game themselves. It was through these interviews, visiting locations key moments from the game, and presentation of props, were the only ways McCall provided proof of the reality game.

A diorama created in a rock wall. One of the major locations in ‘The Institute.’

The in game organisation’s back-story explained that academic people who had “a common interest in the advancement of socio-reengineering” created the Jejune Institute. Social engineering by definition is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or revealing confidential information.

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