Friday, October 5, 2012

A $10 art mystery: the coda

Posted By on 10.05.12 at 06:00 PM

The letter that started it all
It's been over a year since we offered $10 to solve the mystery implied in a cryptic letter we got. Nobody solved it, though not for lack of trying, and eventually the money went to buying some hooch for the office. The mystery didn't seem too hard to solve; the package we received contained only a $10 bill, a a strip of paper with a couple of simple sentences preceded by the number "65," and a letter. The letter told us to follow the clues, and for a few days we did, just like the 99 other people who received or found a similar package. We assembled what we knew, figured out that there was a Facebook page where the project was being outlined, but so much of the information on clues wasn't online that the answer never really came out.

The other day I stumbled across another package that the project's creator, "10storieshigh," sent to us a couple of months ago. In it was the story that little strip was a part of. It's called "Hydra," and it's here; one Gray Chapman was kind enough to upload it to the Web—perhaps the very same Gray Chapman one of our commenters said our segment came from! Give it a read when you get a chance, because it says a lot about writing and working on the Web: It's poetic in the moment but forgets where it was, maybe on purpose. And the way 10storieshigh brought real people from across the country together to figure out an artsy, literary mystery sort of mimics how the Internet works to create small communities of like-minded individuals who never have to be bothered by people they don't agree with, if only because they can shout dissenters down. Like this group of toaster's rights supporters, for example. Naturally, the end of the story [not really a spoiler alert, 'cause this isn't a narrative, remember?] addresses this directly, and prettily:

Once you get people interacting in this way, the city binds together. Or such is the idea, one idea of many, one possible story among every tale that might be threaded and intertwined to make a new thing out of my courage, always halting and faltering. Reaching. Which is what you do when you can't really do anything else.

That was originally written, incidentally, in an article in our former sister paper from Atlanta, Creative Loafing, a paper I didn't really get to know until the first package from Georgia came our way.

Anyway, 10storieshigh is done now, but not without messing with Craigslist first, in a project that ended a month ago. It's worth a look too, if only because it seems 10storieshigh and the Reader share a mutual disdain for that classifieds-killer. Or maybe I'm just projecting reaching.

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