‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’: A Street Artist Named Jeff Hull Created The Jejune Institute
Dispatches From Elsewhere is Jason Segel‘s reimagining of a very real game played by San Franciscans in 2008. Find out why a street artist named Jeff Hull decided to create The Jejune Institute that later inspired Segel to create an AMC anthology series.
Who is Jeff Hull?
Hull is an Oakland based conceptual artist better known for his retail brand, Oaklandish. He always had an interest in “covert multi-media stunts,” even long before The Jejune Institute came to be. Hull created Oaklandish apparel in 2000 to fund his desire for these outlandish stunts.
After his work became public and widely regarded in San Francisco, Hull joined forces with filmmaker Spencer McCall to create a documentary called The Institute. The movie highlighted San Francisco’s fascination with the made-up Jejune Institute and all of the moving parts that eventually involved into an immersive, alternate reality game.
Later, Segel saw this documentary and was inspired to work with Hull and create Dispatches From Elsewhere. Hull is credited as an executive on the AMC anthology series.
Why did Jeff Hull create The Jejune Institute?
“It was an art project, a street art campaign that turned into a collective, and eventually into a brand,” Hill explained to East Bay Express. It started with a slide show on the back of a theater, then turned into a world of exploration immersed in hip-hop culture and street art.
“We’d placed posters and the guerilla drive-ins and then ‘zines and stickers and pirate radio broadcasts and parties on Lake Merritt,” Hull recalled. “It was really [about] activating public space. There was a lot more under-utilized space or what I call ‘negative urban space’ at that time. I was trying to just fill it with content and bring people together around that content.”
As Hull’s desire to bring his community together expanded, so did the need for a concrete space to house all of his ideas. Hull ran The Oaklandish Art Gallery until it was shut down in 2006 after being accused of violating local ordinances.
Losing the gallery left a void in Hull’s creative life, so he had to turn to other outlets. He began working on the Oaklandish brand, but also started to drum up other immersive experiences that would bring audiences to significant places in the community. In doing so, he wanted people to be part of something, but “never really [know] who was a performer, and who wasn’t.” And so, The Jejune Institute was born.
‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’ played out in real life
The game depicted in the AMC anthology series is very similar to the game Hull designed years ago. It originated with flyers for The Jejune Institute, but evolved into players choosing a side and being brought into this “metaphysical street fight” between the Elsewhere Society (the presumed good guys) and The Jejune Institute (the bad guys).
The Jejune Institute eventually developed into the automated room seen in both Dispatches From Elsewhere and The Institute.
For years, Hull operated this augmented reality undetected. “By the end, we counted 10,000 people through the induction center,” Hull explained. “They became the characters in the narrative of their own making. They became the hero in their own hero’s journey.”
Hull’s mission was to get people to interact with their environment in a new and exciting way. “Some people are really stimulated by it, and some people are terrified by it,” Hull said, speaking about the documentary. In the end, it’s safe to say he achieved that, either by stimulating or terrifying audiences — or perhaps a bit of both.