One white t-shirt, one pair of pants, one pair of underwear, one pair of socks, one pair of tennis shoes, 28 protein bars, four gallons of water, a computer, vitamin D tablets, aspirin, wet wipes, three cooling fans, a pillow, five feet of tubing and two custom air-sealed containment units for waste.
All of these items are being been packed in a box...plus a person.
Tonight, Jordan Long will be locked inside of a crate. That crate will be placed inside of a truck and driven from Bald Knob, Arkansas to Portland, Oregon over the course of seven days. This is not an ordinary crate, though; there's a computer with Lord of the Rings Online installed. Long will be playing his LOTRO character, Adanwings, the whole time. He will not leave the crate.
Why someone would do this is an excellent question.
Long is a performance and video artist known for some extraordinary stunts. Here's what I mean.
Perhaps an even better question is why he'd choose to play Lord of the Rings online, of all things.
"I chose LOTRO because of my connection to it," explained Long over email. "I played the game long before coming up with this art piece. I love the books, and a friend got me into the game itself. It was a friendly environment that I found inviting. I'll be running mostly a Lvl 65 hunter and Lvl 57 warden throughout the performance. And yes, I play non-MMO games, including Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2."
This particular piece, which Long is calling "Box Shipment #2," is part of his exploration of trauma and human coping mechanisms. Long experienced trauma himself, leading him to develop these series of pieces, but rather understandably, he wasn't willing to divulge what happened.
"In a lot of my work I explore mechanisms that either I or others have used to deal with PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]," said Long. "Video games are being used in different forms to combat the effects of the disorder. People find many ways to deal with their symptoms, and what works for one won't work for everyone. It's a subject that's close to me, but I study it from an analytical perspective. Otherwise it wouldn't be art; it would be therapy."
"Box Shipment #2" presumes there was a first box, which is true. That one was just an experiment, though, where Long was stationary inside of a crate over four days. No one surrounding Long even knew he was in the crate at the time, which was meant to explore his own reactions to crazy situations.
"Being in such a confined space accentuates that feeling of being so far removed from a world that's going on around you," he said, "AND the odd feeling of safety it brings with it, even when it's a scenario that terrifies me (like places I can't get out of)."
I don't know about you, but being locked in a box for any amount of time, with or without an online game to keep me company, sounds pretty horrifying. Even walking through the recreated Batcave with tiny, tiny hallways at Six Flags to reach the Batman ride managed to make me sweat, and getting locked inside a coffin while alive definitely ranks within my top five worst possible scenarios.
You'll be able to follow along with this experiment in real-time, too. Long has enlisted a fellow LOTRO companion, Townsfolk, to document Long's experiences as Adanwings inside the game, while Brandi Roberts, a friend, will be blogging about Long's reactions in the real-world. Updates on both will be available on www.jordanwaynelong.com.
There will even be a real-time GPS tracker, in case you need up-to-the-minute news.
Long has been speaking with a doctor about how his body will react to the prolonged position and sustained exposure to darkness (thus the vitamin D tablets), but he leaves certain elements unchecked to enhance the performance factor. After all, he's doing all of this to help make a point.
Despite the research and preparation, though, it's hard not to imagine the task ahead sounds daunting.
"I like the audience to know that the emotions I'm going through are honest," he said. "So yes, there are moments when I get scared because I don't know what's going to happen. But that feeling is interesting to me. Trauma is a very personal experience. When it's happening, nothing else in the world matters."
As of this writing, the final touches are being put on the box. At 10:00 p.m. CST, he goes inside. The final part of the performance will take place on July 7 at the Fourteen30Contemporary.
"At this point I'm just trying to relax and get my mind in the right place," he told me last night, a little more than 24 hours before this all starts. "I have prepared for this as much as I can and I'm ready."