Divination Tech in The Twenty-First Century
Attempting to describe Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too is a confounding thing. The book shifts ceaselessly under my minds eye, but even as it reveals new aspects of itself at a disarming rate, it always remains somehow entirely amenable to approach.
The cover and print work is quiet but once examined (as when read), reveals itself to be very strange and highly coded indeed. It’s brown like a gif on a geocities website and there is a flat, (post)internet-ish quality to the design, but the key that opens it up conceptually is the shape. The pages are long and narrow like folded maps or notepads for shopping lists or the butchered paperbacks in a pub I used to go to that were sliced in half vertically so that every wall could be lined with ‘real’ bookshelves without taking up too much space. The width-wise truncation makes it seem stunted somehow—a novelty—but what it’s really supposed to be like, I guess, is a Facebook column.
2500 Random Things About Me Too is based on a Facebook meme, a “note” that’s been circulating since at least 2009 (when I shared it myself and since then forgot about it). You write twenty-five random facts about yourself and then post them, tagging in those friends who you would like to see do the same. Leading up to the book’s publication in 2012, the writer and artist Matias Viegener did this 100 times.
Writing longhand, at least initially, I thought I might unpick the internet-becomes-thing-ness of this book backwards: start in the physical and follow a thread from beginning to end, trace my own route through it. There was a time I could do that with any set of ideas, like walking a tightrope, but it seems that the web is true to its name, made of stickier stuff. I think in web-shapes now: a-linearly. I need the back and forth and cut and paste of a word-processor. Older and perhaps, for this reason, less web-formed of thought than I, Viegener’s conceit here is so elegant. He takes the language structures and conceptual algorithms of meme and interface and uses them as the basis for a procedural artwork. He refigures Facebook tech into book tech and through the resulting chimera simultaneously generates an intimate memoir and what could almost be a twenty-first century Book of Changes. Every so often he directly addresses the temptation to pull away from randomness, overwhelming urges to direct the text. At other times he seems elated by the freedom the limitations of the experiment afford. Narrative and pattern crystallise around the supports provided. The ‘Me Too” of the title seems to acknowledge the role that synchronicity plays in the work. As with the I Ching, that ancient reference point for book as divination tech, I feel like I could consult this collection of accumulated everyday-ness and find a way through into anything.
Convention dictates I should be quoting Viegener here, but to lift any one individual entry as illustrative seems to deprive the potential reader forever of a moment of exquisite surprise. Every fragment retains some of the intimate suspense lent from disclosure between friends. On first reading, it is the randomness the reader experiences, a tumble and flow of brilliant disorder and then gradually a coalescence into coherence, a tangled thread untangling into a skein. Beginning to write about it, approaching it a second time, it’s different—I open the book where I’ve turned down corners of pages. It’s not that I look back and find the thread’s tangled again, it’s that the thread is gone and the view is now of constellations or galaxies, bright points of meaning that I can enter and be surrounded by. I write out in my notebook the entries that (I think) I chose to turn down corners for. I can’t remember exactly which ones they were and now, at second reading, every single one seems charged up bright with intensity. Each fragment opens up associations across my own interior landscape and back to its page-mates in all directions. Déjà vu. Things happen to Viegener as he writes. This is after all a record in time, chronological despite its fidelity to the spirit of randomness, peppered with the noise of haphazardly triggered memories.
The pages I turned down present a record, perhaps, of the points in the text at which I experienced synchronicity—a random thing about me too. Not having underlined specific entries, to go back to them is to wonder, to consult the oracle again. I think I did that deliberately, underlining one in particular seemed not to work at the time. In lieu of quotations, here are twenty-five coincidences:
- I too knew a woman with a travelling cat named Treasure.
- I too like the random thing.
- When I was six years old I lived in The Solomon Islands in the South Pacific and I learnt the local pidgin dialect.
- I once drew a picture of a girl who made pearls the way oysters do, in her stomach, vomiting one up like a star.
- I do not maintain delusions well either.
- I love dowsing.
- I like it when younger people are shocked because they realise most people didn’t have wi-fi in 2005.
- Sometimes I think my obsession with words is like my cat’s allergy to fleas that at its worst causes him to lick patches of his own hair away.
- LOL (this one is a quote)
- I fear the violence of theory and its power.
- My cat lost his tail before I found him.
- I did a performance in which such a knot was made in string that it took hours to untangle it. I wouldn’t let anyone cut the string.
- Whenever the phone rings I steel myself in case it’s to tell me that someone is dead.
- I’ve never been in a physical fight or been struck with force.
- My Grandfather invented submarine batteries for the army.
- When we were travelling to the Solomon Islands we stayed with friends in California. There was so much fruit on the trees in their garden we made dens and threw the ripe fruit across at each other like bombs.
- I’ve been to America six times in 30 years.
- The first social network I used was Friendster.
- Once when I was interning for a gallery I met a man whose van had been hired to move pictures and it turned out as a child he had lived in a house on the island we lived on in The Solomons that my friends had lived in when I was there.
- I saw a monologue show recently where the performer spoke about having names picked out for the kids she never intended to have. They were my aunt’s and my mother’s names.
- The Dice Man is a terrible book. I read it years ago.
- When I was untangling that string of mine I found a memory of my dad explaining to me how to untangle things. The most important thing is to avoid pulling anything tight and not to get frustrated.
- We travelled a lot with my parents, by the time I was eight I’d been all the way around the world
- Just now I opened the book to find an entry about writing the last entry in a list.