The Bureau of Manufactured History

Inspired by the methodology of Surrealism and the madness of Dada, the Bureau of Manufactured History works to uncover the unconscious content of the city. As our lives and neighborhoods become increasingly hyper-planned data-driven sites for commerce, the need for unpredictability, mystery, and romance becomes more urgent. “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” wrote Albert Camus, and the fictions of our cities deserve more attention. With this principle in mind, the Bureau collects rumors, dreams, historical moments, personal reports, and coincidences that can be reconfigured into a chaotic wide-angle portrait of today’s city. Cities are wildly emotional creatures, and the Bureau shall bear witness to the dreams of the people who make them tick.

The Bureau of Manufactured History was a collaboration between James A. Reeves and Oliver Blank that explored the personalities of cities. Reeves spent six weeks in Indianapolis writing stories based on urban legends, historical rumors, and chatter recorded on the Bureau’s open telephone line. Mr. Blank transformed elements of these stories into a 45-minute composition and a performance-based installation using a desk, audio speaker, the soul of Indianapolis, and a chair.

The Former Desk of the First Office of the Bureau of Manufactured History was unveiled at a public ceremony on the third of May and continues to appear in unexpected locations throughout Indianapolis. Reeves’s stories were collected in a book called The Manufactured History of Indianapolis.