Delusion? Grand!

Most of my projects are solo acts. Attribute that to my inability to work with other people or poor personal hygiene if you will, but I do occasionally try to mix things up, as with Guilty Guilty Guilty a couple of years ago, and again with To whomever more recently. I’ve been mulling over another idea the past months, and right now I can’t do much more without involving other people, so please consider this a casting call for your participation!

I want people to briefly tell the story of how Mateusz saved their life. These stories, three to five minuts long, accompanied by pictures and documentary material, will be printed in a tabloid magazine dedicated to the subject. The publication will be bilingual, so the original language in which the story is told doesn’t really matter, as long as I can get some help translating it into English (or Swedish, and I’ll do the English).

If you know of someone who is good at coming up with stories, I’d appreciate it if you would convince them to participate. I think that the stories will be better if you tell them of this assignment in your own words, rather than have them read my description. They are allowed to be anonymous or use an fake name, and if they don’t want to have their face published, that can be worked around.

I’d like you to take their picture and record the audio of their story, using a cellphone or whatever is at hand. It is the story which is important, and technical quality is secondary.

The resulting magazine will be printed by a commercial tabloid printer, in a limited print run. The prints will be numbered and signed, and if it’s feasible I’ll handprint parts of it as well. Everyone who is included in the tabloid, or has helped making it, will get a copy.

While living in Karlstad I ran a weekly hour-long radio show named Siberia. In one of the episodes I had convinced a friend to pose as a member of a local criminal organization. It was all made as if I was clandestinely recording our conversation, and he was frightfully good. He was so convincing, and was so good at improvising answers to my questions, that I had to break the recording a couple of times cause he was too intense. The experience of having a convincing story told to me which I 100% knew wasn’t true, is still vivid in my mind, and this project is a further experiment along these lines. Using myself is the only way I can be certain that the stories are made up — barring advanced somnambulism on my part — and thinking of Mateusz in third person will make it easier to edit into something coherent.

I’m fascinated by people who — knowing or unknowing — are spinning convincing narratives. Those people make for good story tellers and liars, two moral sides of the same coin, and I’m profusely jealous of their ability. And having people so gifted speak on the same subject, I’m curious in how convincing the manufactured mass delusion would be.

The reason I want people who are not my immediate friends to do this is because with one or two exceptions, they are only slightly better liars than I am, and would make for effect instead of story if they were presented with this. Also, their story might relate to me instead of Mateusz, which would be no good at all. The stories don’t have to be positive, but they do have to be about Mateusz saving their life.

Knowingly being deceived is part of civilised society. As a social function, it is a polite convention which allows us to get by in everyday life. But once we start to acknowledge these known unknowns and act upon them, we can get stuck trying to find our way to something more “real.” By buying into a compelling narrative we can escape the digestive tract of scepticism the natural way: Having pulled ourselves out the ass we can start to believe what we say.

There’s a PDF you can download with some instructions and photos below, but you are not obliged to use it in any way. It’s intended as a help for prompting whoever is telling the story; Although, it’s my experience that those good at making up stories need very little prompting. Download the PDF by clicking here: Mateusz_saves.pdf

Thanks for your attention and I hope you’ll consider participating!

Compelling narratives.

Thomas Bey William Bailey over at Vague Terrain has an analysis of Modern Warfare 2. It’s a bit too uptight for my taste, but it balances the lavish superlatives I’ve heaped on the game quite nicely. His objection is that because of the extremely compelling narrative of games like these, we’re fed a bunch of propaganda and taught a manufactured history of the world. This is completely true. Thomas critiques isn’t limited to this game but rather highlights the possibilities for nefarious uses which the medium can be put to. The FPS Americas Army is in its third iteration, and they have spun it off into a graphic novel as well — the first story unironically entitled Knowledge is Power — but they get a free pass since it’s an obvious recruitment tool for the US army.

As Walter Benjamin mentions (in an essay you might have noticed lately) film, like architecture, is an art form which you learn to appreciate by habit and osmosis, rather than contemplation. Computer games have the grandiose scenarious of movies, as well as the tactility of architecture (since you’re able to navigate the world and develop an appreciation of the physics of the place.) so they really act as a multiplier of knowledge and narrative. (Regardless of their relationship to fact, mind you)

The exciting thing with photo-realistic games isn’t that we might end up with a Matrix-like scenario where we won’t be able to distinguish between ‘reality’ and ‘not-reality’ but that our memories of events will be messed up. Are you remembering something which you experienced in the ‘real world’ or the surreal world? We don’t have to mess up our physical perception of things for this technology to be scary, only our remembrance of things. Look at how much importance we place on photography as an external memory, and multiply that.

I know that I have created historical narratives based on nothing else than the tech tree in Civilization, so obviously I give more credence to a story than to static statements of fact; And since we experience the stories of computer games first hand, we might absorb the sentiments expressed even more readily. MW2 is a kick-ass game exactly because it fits within the narrative which the West has spun, and which countless action movies has reinforced — it’s “as close to reality as you get” exactly because it’s a narrative which is fictionalized from start to finish.

To paraphrase: Guns don’t kill people. People who live in a world where guns are seen as necessary responses to certain crises, kill people. Political action is necessary if we’d like to change the story, and it would be awesome if computer games could be a change for good, instead of only mirroring an already dominant narrative of how the world works and who we are as humans.

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A more upbeat rider to this story comes from the podcasting world, where fictional parallel universes are less flat and predictable than in MW2:

Myke Bartlet has continued writing and podcasting stories in the Salmon & Dusk universe. The latest short story, Yesterday came too soon, is a nice introduction to his stuff if you don’t feel like starting on a longer series. As previously mentioned, Mykes reading is half the enjoyment of his podcast, not cause the stories are so-so, but cause his tempo and timbre is excellent. Go listen.

To whomever. According to Olle

I don’t know what Olle has against people who don’t speak Swedish, but he contributed to the whomever project with a short biography in Swedish. The image is in the mail. Thank you Sir:

Bilden är tagen 1996 och publicerades i nöjesbilagan till Turku sanomat. Mannen på bilden uppgav sig heta Hasse Wigeèr och vara från Umeå. Bilden presenterades som en mingelbild vid en konsert med artisten Jimmie Tenor.

Några veckor senare ringer någon till redaktionen på Turku Sannomat och uppger att mannen på bilden inte är Hasse Wigeer utan istället föreställer den fd. rallyföraren Terje Vissää. Terje var känd för sin orädda och aggressiva stil på banan och prisades av president Kekkonen för sina insatser inom rallysporten. Terje var även känd för sitt hårda leverne och sitter i rullstol sedan en han onykter kraschat med sin motorcykel 1989. Terje var tidigare ett känt ansikte i Turkus nöjeliv, men har sedan kraschen inte synts offentligt fram till att denna bild publicerades. Vi önskar Terje välkommen tillbaka.

Summer project: To whomever

Petter took a picture of me last weekend, and I liked it a lot; For once I didn’t immediately recognise the person in the picture, but rather saw someone older, more tired, more drunk and in a jacket that doesn’t seem to fit. It’s easy to construct a story about someone when you’re people-watching in a park, or see images of them on tv or in a paper, but it’s seldom that you get to have that distance to yourself.

We joked that it looked like a self-promotional one, the “spontaneous” and “real” image you might see actors sign to hang on the wall of a local bar, or send to fans. And thus I decided to turn this into a small project to occupy my unemployed time.

I’d people to send letters addressed to whomever they think that the person in the picture is.

Write him an email for whatever reason; maybe he had a walk-on role in a movie you like and you’re collecting all the autographs from the cast; perhaps he was in a band fifteen years ago and you’re wondering when the next record is coming out; did he drive a car across twelve state lines in the longest car chase ever showed on COPS; is he the only member of an Esperanto club on an island you’re planning to visit, and does he speak English at all?

Make up a story, name, whatever, and I’ll try to reply to the emails in character. The first twenty or so emails will get a personalised and signed photo if you include an address. (I can’t really afford more than that) Should this project generate more than that amount of mail, I’ll reply by email. (if you’d like a reply at all, that is) If you don’t want your real name revealed, (or your using a pen name) let me know somewhere in the email, otherwise I’ll put it up in the post. To participate, send an email to:

All emails and replies will end up as individual posts on my blog, and there’s a feed tracking just those posts here:


I’ve modified the text above for clarities sake. Also, I’ve been told that this endeavor might seem megalomaniac, but since when can’t megalomaniacs have fun?