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Interview

Brian Singer talks about the 1000 journals project – Page 2

Brian Singer talks about some stories behind the journal entries in the 1000 journals project…

READERSVOICE.COM: What were some of the most interesting journal entries you’ve read and what did you like about them?

BRIAN SINGER: The two that keep coming back to me are first, the gentleman who used a journal as an apology to a friend. He wrote the long, heartfelt apology in the journal, and then left it on the doorstep of his friend. The next posting to the web site was: “it came wrapped in white computer paper bearing my name, without postage, and i knew immediately that it was from josh, that asshole who i had already forgiven for ruining our friendship, but was still not going to waver in my decision to tell him to fuck off. ”
The other one that sticks in my head is a story written by a woman. I don’t remember which journal it was, but the tone of the story was “Hi, it’s good to see you again, it’s been a while”. And as you read on, you realize that it’s someone talking to themself. It’s a story about being sexually abused, and how it split their personality, and now, after many years, the wounds are healing. (I’m not doing the story justice here, but it was very… sad and touching and amazing.)

RV: Where was the first place you dropped a journal in San Francisco? What was the first response you got?

BS: Some of the first journals were brought to the place I worked at the time. I left about 20 of them in a box in the kitchen, and then sent out an email explaining the project.
They were gone by lunch.
I also left some of the first journals in bars I frequented, such as the Toronado on Haight, and Kilowatt in the Mission District.
The first response was in Journal #35; a guy named Peter did some drawings, and gave me photos of them.

RV: What did you think would be the result when you dropped the first 100 journals around San Francisco?

BS: I didn’t actually know. That was part of the reason for doing the project.

RV: Have the responses to the 1000 journals differed from your expectations?

BS: They’ve actually exceeded my expectations, with the variety and sheer creativity of the entries. The only thing I found surprising is how respectful people are of other folks’ entries. It seems like a lot of people take a page, and that’s it. Not at all like a bathroom wall, where once you add something, people will scribble it out, draw over it.

RV: What sort of work do you handle at the San Francisco design firm you work at?

BS: A little bit of everything, actually. Right now I’m doing a project for Apple (which, of course, I can’t talk about) and I just finished a book design for Chronicle Books.Other projects range from identity and collateral systems, to event posters, to magazine mastheads, to annual reports.

RV: I know you had one journal return to you. How many do you hope will return and when will you call an end to the project?

BS: I think it’d be great if 20 returned (I don’t expect more than 50 to make the complete journey). There’s no official end to the project, and I imagine years from now, journals may still get returned.

RV: The stories behind the journal entries, of course, are as interesting as the entries themselves. Can you tell about the “pirates” in St Louis and their photographic clues to a journal’s whereabouts?

BS: One day I get an email that’s all in pirate-speak… like “Arrrr matie!” and such.
I get a lot of strange email, so I was about to trash it when I read a little further. It then became clear that these guys in St. Louis had one of the journals. Moments later, I get another email, with pictures attached (the ones on the website, of them dressed as pirates, and with the journal).
The pirate email they sent had clues as to where they hid the journal (which was in the mouth of a giant turtle statue).

Two days later, people who went looking for it reported it gone. That’s the last I’ve heard of it.

RV: What was the story behind the missing journals 114 and 194, contributed to by Andy who died in March, 2001?

BS: Right now, there’s not much of a story. I sent the journals to Australia, to his sister Kayt.
She gave them to him, and he contributed to them. Then, a couple months later, he was killed in a motorcycle accident.
I’ve tried to track down the journals, so his family can see what he contributed, but although many people send in leads, I’ve had no luck in finding them.

RV: What are some of the spin-off or related projects that have developed that interest you the most?

BS: They all interest me, in different ways. With people who are doing journal projects, I’m always wondering how they’re managing the process, how successful the journals are, and what’s being contributed to them. With other projects, I’m usually amazed by the use of technology.
Other projects I’m a fan of: The Mirror Project, 20 Things, FreeWords, Book Crossing.

RV: Were your travels in New Zealand and London related to the 1000 Journals Project?

BS: Not really. I just haven’t traveled all that much, and need to see the world. Next up, Greece. Or Spain. Or both.

RV: What are some of your plans, both with the project and otherwise?

BS: There’s currently a documentary in the works (by a third party), which should be quite interesting (and definitely wasn’t in the scope of things I’d considered for the project.
I had always envisioned doing a book about it, showcasing the best of what people contributed.
I’d also love to do an exhibition of the journals, and allow people to not only view them, but add to them as well.

-See Brian Singer’s website at www.1000journals.com.

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