[Originally published July 19, 2016]
Yes. It’s really true. His name is Jordan Wayne Long. It will not surprise you to learn that he’s a performance artist. Of course he is! He spent 7 days in a crate playing Lord of the Rings: Online! Said crate traveled in a van from Bald Knob, Arkansas to Portland, Oregon – a great Mecca for the type of person who would want to do something like this.
A few questions have probably crossed your mind:
1. Did he die?
No, though ‘Man Dies in Box Playing LOTRO’ would’ve been an incredibleheadline. He seemed in a pretty bad way by the end of it. In his day 5 update video, he’s visibly exhausted, his eyes are wicked bloodshot, and I’d be willing to bet he was in a lot of pain. I don’t know how many crates you’ve been in, but – I can assure you – they’re not great for your back. He was also surviving on a diet of protein bars and water, which – just on its own – could also be considered performance art. Effective artist or not, Long’s certainly a man of intense fortitude.
2. Why’d he do this?
According to various news sites, this was an attempt to explore the benefits of online interaction on PTSD. Mr. Long apparently suffers from intense claustrophobia, and was using his wooden prison to stoke this particular psychological flame.
From an email shared with NewsGrist:
“Long’s work deals with trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He explores the mechanisms he and others use to cope with PTSD, focusing on how people who are confined to their homes due to physical or emotional trauma find online games a place where they feel safe to enter once more into the social sphere. Unlike the physical world, they can enter and exit whenever they choose, be whoever they want to be and feel like functioning members of society again.
By locking himself in the crate, Long seeks to create a world wherein he functions as a member of this online community only. At the same time he plans to examine how this game functions as a mechanism to help him deal with his own issues with claustrophobia.”
I would also put forward that he’s a performance artist, which is a pretty good reason to do pretty much anything. You know what I would do if I was a performance artist? I’d post up in a bathtub made out of pizza in one of Trump’s penthouses (the one with the solid-gold toilet, if you please), play Dark Souls, and – whenever he walked in – I’d run around, silently naked. Maybe I’d throw balloons full of ooblick too – I don’t know.
What’s that? You think that’s stupid? Well, it’s performance art.
You probably just don’t ‘get it.’
3. What did he do with the poop?
I DON’T KNOW. ALL THOSE FIBROUS PROTEIN BARS PROBABLY DIDN’T MAKE THINGS EASY THOUGH.
4. Wait, wait. This whole thing kinda doesn’t make sense? How could he maintain an internet connection? Does claustrophobia count as PTSD? This seems poorly planned.
Well, yeah. It’s performance art. As far as claustrophobia goes, we don’t know the origin of Long’s fear, as he never disclosed it. If it’s just a naturally occurring phobia, then – no – he doesn’t have PTSD. But claustrophobia can also be the result of a negative association with tight spaces, triggering panic attacks etc. when those conditions get reintroduced. So that does fit the qualifications for PTSD. Hey, maybe this dude grew up in a ‘Dursleys from Harry Potter’ situation – you don’t know.
Hang on a second. I just realized I’m a full 584 words into this piece, and I haven’t made an Alice in Chains reference.
I’ve looked into the internet connection aspect, and here’s what I could gather. Long definitely acknowledges spotty connection issues during the trip, and you can see in the final compilation video that they stop at several points – likely at hotspots, I would suspect. Maybe the connection issues detracted from Long’s ability to effectively explore his thesis, which would explain why he’s removed any material that might have referred to his findings.
5. Wait we don’t even know what the take away was?
Yeah. Zip, zilch, nada. This is easily the most confounding piece of this puzzle. No post-box information really exists. Despite the heavy press coverage of the planned journey, there was never any follow-up. As I mentioned, Long has also since deleted essentially all account of the trip, sans a few short videos that fail to address the thesis of the project. It would appear that he’s similarly removed the supplementary materials associated with his other projects, leaving a vague, threadbare picture for us to work with.
It seems like the box project wasn’t that popular anyways, despite the mainstream gaming press’ hype. The most viewed existing material is “Jordan Wayne Long Day 5 Crate Update” with 613 views on YouTube. That’s a full 93 views more than the final documentation video, “Box Shipment #2 Documentation (Jordan Wayne Long).” I would say about 10 of those views come from me, doing my research into this piece.
Actually, this works for a meta reading of Long’s experience in the box as a commentary on performance art.
You suffer, pouring your heart and body into the Scooby-Doo contraption you’ve created as a statement on the GOP, or whatever. All your friends say they’ll come.
“Oh yeah, Friday at 6, right? Oh it’s at 7? That’s right! It’s at 7! Oh, no that’s not a problem. I’ll be there, for sure!”
And then your hour of duty comes around. 7 on Friday. You step out into the gallery, beaming in your black-and-red leather skinsuit. You look out towards your audience to see….
Your professor. They give an encouraging look, but one that fills you with doubt. It’s like when your grandma tells you what a good job you did at your recital; she’s your meemaw – she has to say that. The doubt takes hold and you falter, dropping your baton made out of ham. You notice your crush is the only other person there, and they do not give you an encouraging look. They look worried, almost, that you will smell of lukewarm ham later when you inevitably ask them what they thought of your piece. They do not like lukewarm ham, let alone its odor.
You reach the climax of your routine, spraying brown glitter glue on Karl Rove masks. You look up, breathing heavy, sweating, covered in glitter and ham stink. No one is there. Even your professor has left. After all the posters, the promotions, the friend-guilting, nobody came.
This is what happened to Jordan Wayne Long. He locked himself in a god-damn box for a week – a week! – and nobody cared. Not only that, but the actual drive to Portland – 2,244 miles from Bald Knob – took up 35 hours and 13 minutes of that week. For 35 hours, this real-ass human being rattled around in a crate. He was literally human cargo.
This dude was genuinely excited for his project – according to fellow kinsmember, jts111102, he’d been “talking about it for weeks.” He was – I’m sure – ecstatic to have his piece featured by outlets like Kotaku, The Escapist, RockPaperShotgun, and several others. Then, when time came for people to show up…
Pig’s in the hay, barn’s in the castle, as they say.
6. No, but really. What about the poop.
I try not to think about it.