Were you ever inducted into the Jejune Institute?
Back in 2008, I started seeing a bunch of Scientology-esque Memory-to-Media Center fliers around town, involving a device that could transcribe your memories and dreams onto VHS tapes, among other inconceivable claims. If you called the number on the flier, you would be led to the physical office of the Jejune Institute in the Financial District, then down a rabbit hole of scavenger hunts and mystery-solving through some of the lesser traveled nooks and crannies of San Francisco and Oakland. There was a whole host of mysterious characters and seemingly fictional organizations, including a cultish leader, a missing teenage girl, a rival organization threatening to take down the Jejune Institute, a dancing sasquatch, a bizarre low-wattage radio station broadcast from Dolores Park, and more.
It was revealed three years later that the Jejune Institute was a massive, intricate, immersive art project and alternate reality game, designed by artist Jeff Hull in order to encourage residents to explore their own city through an unlikely lens — a kind of Children’s Fairyland for adults. Around the same time, the Jejune Institute closed abruptly and left a lot of questions unanswered.
The Institute, a film by Spencer McCall, appears to be a documentary about the Jejune Institute, featuring many interviews with participants and the creator himself. However, it is not entirely clear how much of the film is real and how much of it is just another chapter to Hull’s art project. Some believe that more installments of the Jejune Institute await, and that this film is just the beginning of the next one.
The Institute is one of the most interesting and weirdly inspiring films I’ve seen lately, and it will appeal to fans of scavenger hunts, secret stairway walks, conspiracy theories, Unsolved Mysteries, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and the like. The Institute opens on Friday, October 4 and runs through Wednesday, October 9 at the Roxie.