Preface

          In the fall of 2009, my friend Markus Hansen asked me to help him build an installation that he had designed for an art gallery in Bratislava. Markus was one of several artists invited to construct a portable shelter for a themed group show. His piece was called Crisis Cabin. As it turned out, that summer had been a bit of a crisis for me already. I was depressed, despondent, drinking savagely and almost never writing. I had painted myself into a corner of logic from which I didn’t see the point of doing anything anymore. The trip to Slovakia was a welcomed distraction. Along the way, Markus talked to me about his work and asked me about mine. We discussed art and philosophy, writer’s block, our fears and ambitions, our viewpoints on the world. Slowly, my mind started to crawl out of its hole. Markus was asking pointed questions that challenged my positions and made me want to start writing about things again. But the one thing I couldn’t do was figure out where to start. I didn’t know how to just pick a subject out of the air and discuss it. I still didn’t know what to do with my pen. So Markus proposed that he give me a list of titles and I work from them. This way, I could get back to writing without having to worry about the justifications for my subject matter. I was immediately struck by the freedom the process offered. I could suddenly write about anything, in any way, because I wouldn’t really be writing it for me; I’d be writing it for Markus. I was also intrigued by the question of how the writer’s role might change in relinquishing this element of control. We talked about how fun it would be to do a whole book of the pieces that resulted from this experiment. I joked that such a book would only ever have an audience of one person, to which Markus replied, “Fine. Then we’ll do a book called Audience of One!” We made an agreement that he would send me 25 titles and I would write a piece about each of them. He could give me anything he wanted as a title and I could write any type of piece in response. These are those 25 pieces. The titles remain exactly as Markus sent them to me and appear in the same order.

—Jason Stoneking, March 2011