Perhaps it was their shared propensity for posting weird ads on Craigslist that was fated to bring them, like so many missed connections, together. Or maybe they're just two weird dudes. Whatever it is, there's something approaching ironic about the fact that Daniel Nilsson -- who had been looking via the Craigslist housing section for a complete stranger with which to spend an otherwise totally isolated in a box with no food -- found his stranger not through a reply to his own ad, but by replying to another. "Basically I put up a weird Craigslist ad looking for film work: 'Artist Seeks Coming of Age Ritual' or something like that," explains Trevor Jahner, who is and will continue to be the stranger in Nilsson's box for the next five or so days. "Daniel contacted me, like, 'I've got something you might be interested in.'"
Because Nilsson was looking for a stranger, of course, the vetting process was a couple of places removed from Nilsson himself. "Yeah, so basically the response I got from Daniel was this really brief e-mail kind of telling me what he was thinking about doing, and then he said if I was interested to contact his mother," Jahner recalls. Jahner did, and Nilsson's mother liked him.
And so it came to be that the opening of what is technically an art exhibit titled Isolation Box # 2 at Edge Gallery on Friday was actually the first time Nilsson and Jahner -- who, I really think this bears repeating, will be spending seven entire days closed up in a box together (if they can both hold out) -- had ever spoken or met. About 45 minutes after that first meeting, they climbed in and closed the lid.
As Nilsson explained his urge to live (and, it's also worth noting, defecate) in a tiny box -- a 4' x 4' x 8' structure more or less barren on the inside and covered with mirror panels on the outside -- with no sustenance, "There's something ... about, like, just the potential humanness of some kind of...gestation. There's this symbolism of the womb or something, challenging yourself to grow and survive and stick out these hardships." Jahner's reasons for getting in the box sound somewhat similar.
"I'm trying to come to terms with living in the world as an artist," Jahner explains. "I think of this thing as a way to get in touch with my body, to do a challenge. Kind of my tagline has been, 'Drano for your existence.'"
And while Nilsson has previous experience with this kind of thing -- he lived alone in a box in the San Isabel National Forest for four days last year -- Jahner's closest point of reference is being cooped up in a van on tour with his various bands (he plays in Thee Goochi Boyz, The Manx and Pacific Pride). Can he make it through the week? "I have no idea," Jahner admits.
At pretty much that exact moment in our conversation, incidentally, Jahner and I were interrupted by a shirtless dude who asked if either of us had any weed, and then sat down on a pile of sand in the middle of the floor and blew up a beach toy and muttered to himself while the crowd looked on, a performance he concluded with the remarks, "Give me some weed; fuck you faggots." Ah, performance art.
Not long after, Nilsson and Jahner made the preparations for their box-journey, loading the structure up with several large containers of water and the implements they will use to pee and shit in.
And then the crowd waved goodbye and the lid was hoisted shut -- it was actually a pretty interesting phenomenon, because after the goodbyes were said and the lid closed and the journey to the center of the mind set off upon, even though the party kept going and a few people even began cleaning the mirrors on the outside of the box -- nobody tried to interact with the two people inside it. It was as if they'd literally left.
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The journey continues, for now. Nilsson and Jahner are scheduled to emerge from their self-imposed cocoon this coming Friday at 8:45 p.m. sharp, but we'll catch up with them before then and see how they're doing.