The Bureau of Manufactured History

Leave New York. Leave London. Leave your computer in the woods. Leave your friends behind. Leave your fears under the bed. Set off on the road to Indianapolis. Walk its streets. Find its gargoyles. Listen to the late night static. Stand on the corner and dream and yell. Know that we are listening.
— The Bureau (2013)

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 neighbourhoods 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. 

The Bureau of Manufactured History is a collaboration between artist Oliver Blank and writer James A. Reeves that explores the personalities of cities. Taking place in Indianapolis, March through May 2013, the Bureau disseminated a series of instructional cards for the modern flâneur, produced a selection of essays containing myths and mistruths about Indianapolis, and finally constructed an installation entitled, The Former Desk of the First Office of the Bureau of Manufactured History.

Using audio transmissions, written word, mysterious telephone calls, and a performance-based installation that brought city residents inside the Bureau, Reeves and Blank conjured a chaotic, vivid, and wide-angle portrait of the American city.

The Bureau installation toured various locations – both public and private – throughout the city of Indianapolis and is now on permanent display at the Museum of Psychphonics. The essays, originally produced by James A. Reeves, alongside select photography from the installation, can be found in the book The Manufactured History of Indianapolis.

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