The Mysterious Package Company is an entertainment company like no other, offering a range of genre narratives — Lovecraftian horror, for example, or Victorian murder mystery or zombie apocalypse — that are deconstructed and retold through custom-designed objects and ephemera. These obsessively researched materials are packed into a series of “mysterious packages” that are delivered by mail, most often as gifts to unsuspecting recipients. It is the job of whomever receives these packages to figure out the connections among the items and hunt for telling details in the hopes of reassembling the narrative. “Stories you can touch,” is the MPC tag line.
After a year freelancing with the company, I was hired at the start of 2016 to devise and enact a wholesale revamp of the MPC’s quixotic quarterly publication called Curios and Conundrums. As editor in chief, I was to up the ante in terms of the publication’s weirdness and quality, to broaden its appeal among the company’s eccentric and discerning membership.
(In the future, I'll post additional forays into, and samples of, my work with the MPC.)
I hear dead people
It was an exciting challenge to bring my 25-plus years’ experience in journalism and media to the weird and wonderful publication Curios and Conundrums (C&C) and to look for opportunities when to twist the content and infuse it with the C&C’s off-kilter vibe.
One of the more unusual and ambitious innovations I concocted was a series of interviews, in Q&A format, of artists and thinkers where I, as the interviewer, took the voice of a real person from the past, someone who had had a profound influence on the interviewee, someone the interviewee admired. Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, for example, chose to be interviewed by Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga (who died in 1937). Canadian artist Kent Monkman, in the guise of his alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, chose to be interviewed by French painter Eugène Delacroix (who died in 1863). A third in the series switched it up a little, with British industrial designer Thomas Thwaites, author of GoatMan: How I Took A Holiday From Being a Human, choosing to be interviewed by the god Pan.
The choice of interviewer was made after much back and forth. You can’t just call up people and say, “Ya, I want to interview you in the voice of a dead person.” Actually, I did; I know both Maddin and Monkman. Thwaites, on the other hand, didn’t know me from Adam; he’s just a goer. I was lucky. I am very grateful to have been granted these individuals’ trust to collaborate on such a wacky conceit, to have them play along.
Researching an artist in tandem with their inspiration was great fun: understanding the artist’s connection, finding the voice of a person from the past, searching for intersections. Wherever possible, I used the actual words of the “interviewer.” In the case of Delacroix, Monkman directed me to Delacroix’s journals; they are a continuing source of insight for Monkman. It's plain to see why, for they are a fantastic record of Delacroix’s thoughts on both the art and craft of painting.
I had an unstated hope for this series of Q&As. Often I find that people are much more forthcoming when discussing the work of others rather than their own. Through some special alchemy, these semi-fictional interviews result in truthier truths.