I’ve been watching Almar Atlason, a 23 year old Icelandic art student completing his final art project for his Methods and Process class at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts. He is hoping to spend a week inside a transparent box. Oh, and he’s naked, so he’s very exposed. His project is streaming on YouTube but is #NSFW. I learned about this from a friend’s Facebook post that lead me to an article on Iceland Review Online. He called this “A perfect anarchy.”
He brought nothing inside his see-thru box and is relying on the generosity of others, who have brought him food, water, blankets, an iPod, books, and many other items. He has an IN door and an OUT door, and from what I’ve seen in the time I’ve watched him, he’s not speaking, but communicating with sign or through writing.
On the YouTube stream there is also a chat box* as part of the project. If you are watching in Chrome, you can right click (Control-Click for Apple users) to have the chat translated. People quickly pop in and out while others have been hanging around for a time. The newbies seem to ask the same questions again and again, so here are the answers before you even go to watch Almar.
What is this?
This is interactive art and an experiment. Viewers are a part of it and Almar has set this up so that he needs people to be a part of his installation. Those of us who can’t partake in person can engage with other viewers through the chat option on YouTube and possibly with him. He has looked at the camera and has possibly waved at us, though he may be waving at someone behind it too.
Where does he pee and poop?
Often this is the first question and it was one of mine as well. After all, we know that it’s unhealthy to eat and poo in the same place, so immediately, people are curious and/or concerned. He pees in a urinal like one uses in a hospital or an empty bottle. He poops in a bag he disposes of through the OUT door. Yes, he has TP.
I bet it stinks in there! He must reek! How does he wash?
Perhaps it’s a bit rank in there, but he has been given baby wipes and hand sanitizer. Someone brought him a fan to air out the place one day. He occasionally props a door open with his roll of TP.
Has he fapped yet?
Not that I’ve seen. Stike that. Was it to completion? Hard to say. His stream died for a time. It came back on, but I don’t think he realized it. It was quick and he sat up as his breathing increased, so I don’t know if he came or not. Then someone came into the room and helped him with his computer. Not sure he knows if we saw that or not.
Why is he naked?
Why not? That’s my first thought whenever anyone asks that in the chat. He’s in a see-through box, exposed, and on display, so why on earth wouldn’t he be naked? Isn’t that part of this?
Why’s he really doing this?
He told mlb.is that he wanted to see if he could spend a week in there, but is there a larger meaning? I think we’re going to have to wait for him to tell us.
Where is he?
He’s in Reykjavik, Iceland, and despite some people in the chat playing and saying he’s in Sweden or Poland, he’s in Reykjavik. My friend even brought him hand sanitizer, ear plugs, and pain meds there, so firsthand account and visit.
Why am I watching this? Why am I still watching this?
Yeah, I asked that one too. I find watching Almar living in his box oddly relaxing. He reads, he taps his feet or slaps his chest when he listens to music, and he does yoga-like stretches. I’ve watched him sleep and eat and even take care of the other business (which he does in a very matter-of-fact manner).
This is not a sexual display; this is art, which is how it is on YouTube. It’s interesting to see him carry out his compromised existence on the screen with very little self-consciousness. I appreciate that.
This is art?
The real beauty in interactive art is that it means something different to everyone who takes part in it because meaning is shaped through individual experiences, past and present. He took nothing in and has to rely on his community for help, which has engaged us. He needs things to help him survive, which he now has thanks to people being generous. He needs viewers for this to mean something as well, so we are now a part of his art.
His art has encouraged many of us to go beyond the pee and poop questions so we can ask deeper ones. Many viewers empathize with him, as though he’s like an animal in a cage at the zoo. He chose this existence, however, unlike those animals.
When watching Almar interact with his surroundings, I can’t help thinking about our reliance on not only the kindness of others but also our dependence on things. These things take up space in our own boxes. Almar is now surrounded by items he didn’t bring in with him. Some he’s obviously come to appreciate. From what I’ve witnessed, he is thankful for the soft items like the blankets and pillows. His tailbone area was red on the second day and the cushioning seems to be helping. The earplugs my friend brought him helped him get a good night’s sleep last night, at least the time I saw him snoozing. Other items he’s disposed of, but I’ve noticed how he stacks various objects because he might need them later.
And today I saw him being much more demonstrative. He “hugged” his friends, arms outstretched against the glass, before they left him for the night. He tapped his toes against the glass when talking with someone, as if he wanted to touch them. He blew numerous kisses to friends. Even though he can see out and people can see him, I’m wonder if he’s feeling isolated.
So yeah, I’m oddly fascinated by the naked man in a see-thru box in Iceland right now. No apologies.
*There are some trolls in the chat box trying to incite political and social arguments. Don’t feed them. 😉