The Bureau of Manufactured History

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” wrote Albert Camus.

Inspired by the methodology of Surrealism and the madness of Dada, the Bureau of Manufactured History works to uncover the unconscious content of the city. As our lives and neighborhoods become increasingly hyper-planned data-driven sites for commerce, the need for unpredictability, mystery, and romance becomes more urgent. “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” wrote Albert Camus, and the fictions of our cities deserve more attention. With this principle in mind, the Bureau collects rumors, dreams, historical moments, personal reports, and coincidences that can be reconfigured into a chaotic wide-angle portrait of today’s city. Cities are subjective and wildly emotional creatures, and the Bureau shall bear witness to the dreams of the people who make them tick.

The Bureau of Manufactured History was a collaboration between Oliver Blank and myself that explores the personalities of cities. I spent the month of March in Indianapolis writing stories based on urban legends, historical rumors, and general chatter recorded on the Bureau’s open telephone line. Mr. Blank transformed elements of these stories into a 45-minute composition and a performance-based installation using a desk, audio speaker, the soul of Indianapolis, and a chair. The Former Desk of the First Office of the Bureau of Manufactured History was unveiled at a ceremony on the third of May and continues to appear in unexpected locations throughout the city. A book called The Manufactured History of Indianapolis was published in 2013.

Scene from the former office of the Bureau of Manufactured History.

Walk to the nearest busy intersection. Run to high ground. Walk to a place you haven’t been before. Walk in one direction until you find somewhere suitable to sit down. Wander the streets aimlessly for approximately one minute.

This project was made possible through a residency by We Are City with support from the Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University and Indiana University Center for Art + Design.

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