Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fun and Games at " The Institute"'

By Moira Sullivan

The Enigmatic Octavio Coleman

The Institute is a feature-length documentary directed by Spencer McCall featured at the 2012 Mill Valley Film Festival about the Games of Nonchalance, the San Francisco-based alternate reality game known as the The Jejune Institute which existed from 2008 to 2011 and closed due to lack of funds.

The film consists of interviews with the players who wind up following the trail of posters around the city to a downtown office on 580 California Street. Here is the headquarters for Nonchalance, a Situational Design Agency. The game as a whole is actually an emergent new art form where everyday messages in the real world have unforeseen consequences, some of which make absolutely no sense according to some of the participants and others which lead to enlightenment.

At first the recruits feel like the moonie devotees to the Unification Church created by Sun Myung Moon, or the Scientologist devotees to Dianetics and L Ron Hubbard. And there is a bizarre creator with a weird name like Ron Hubbard, a creator with a lot of money that drives around in a stretch limo -  "OCTAVIO COLEMAN ESQUIRE" - who lures participants to California St. with this challenge: "To those dark horses
with the spirit to look up and see, 
a recondite family awaits". But it turns out that "The Institute" has nothing to do with religion at all and is more Situationist and performance art oriented than anything.

Octavio Coleman claims that young people in the 70s knew how to connect with each other , the time when he was young, and when you consider today’s interfaces such as social media and digital electronics it makes sense. 40% of young people today consider their closest friends virtual friends they have never even met.

However, absolutely nothing makes sense in the film. It is if everyone is speaking a foreign language about a system that seems unintelligible unless you go through the induction. Participants claim that everything becomes magical and unexpected when they do.

One thing is for sure— video games and virtual reality and the fantasy levels that can be experienced by them pale in comparison to a living game where participants, including children are instructed to play games or listen to a bizarre radio station, answer phones and go to various destinations on scavenger hunts. They can be instructed to engage in activities like street dancing where other dancers show up with a boom box. It seems like a lot of fun for people who want to experience a new reality out of everyday life.

© 2013 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/09/13
Movie Magazine International

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