Graphic novel and theater play:

The candidates

What is The candidates?

The candidates is a story of which I have developed two versions: a graphic novel and a theater play.

How does the story begin?

The Truly Unique is in crisis. Its uniqueness is defied. Its operations develop below expectations, and its visions, values and attitudes are increasingly criticized by outsiders. The three members of the Council decide – behind the back of their charismatic leader, The President – to invite ten promising second-tier executives to a secret meeting in the company’s own country club. Each one of these ten persons represents a different area within the organization, and a different personality type. In a series of tests, the three members of the Council aim to identify the one candidate most suit to either replace The President or, should that fail, serve as the scapegoat for the growing crisis. The candidates enter this game not knowing the plan, unaware of the meeting’s purpose, and without any information on the test criteria. They are observed all day and night – openly and secretly – by the members of their own Council.

How does the story end?

The exercise turns out to be counterproductive. Very soon, the tests lead to unforeseen levels of ambiguity and contradiction, and into the darkness and taboo zones of The Truly Unique and its present members. The game turns into a reality show, and this show sheds light on a reality hidden until now. The members of the Council struggle to maintain control. They fight against uncertainty and try to defend what they consider the integrity of the system. After each test they dismiss a growing number of candidates on the pretense that The President be requiring their help back at the headquarters. The remaining candidates find themselves in a survival game of increasing, yet undefined danger – what is to happen to them, the organization and its leaders and the common mission? In the end, the tests do lead to a result: one, however, that is totally different from what any of the participants might have expected.

Who is The Truly Unique?

The Truly Unique is a multinational corporation, a political system or party, a multilateral organism, an international organization, a social or scientific institution, a big movement or network: it is the visible manifestation of our actual collective belief systems, and the result of a cocktail of known ingredients. Size means importance. Access and membership are exclusive. All members share the same values and operate under the umbrella of a shared mission; they consider themselves privileged parts of a higher and most meaningful cause. In that sense, The Truly Unique is much more than just an organization – it is a model of how we deal with reality collectively. The model is based on a particular way of understanding life: chained to an unalterable idea that has turned into ideology, and into internalized paradigms. The model cherishes personal leadership and therefore depends on the charisma and the personal myths of its own leaders.

Who is the anti-hero?

In the first place, the great antagonist of The Truly Unique is reality itself. Its complexity exceeds the operational and intellectual capacity of the organization. The more globally integrated the world becomes, the more fragmented is turns at once – this combination of interdependency and dissociation makes the organization oscillate between a notion of omnipotence and irritating impotence.

In the second place, the other great antagonists of the organization are the very beliefs and convictions of its members. The leaders and executives of The Truly Unique continue developing what is already perfect. They optimize their system, aiming to augment its efficiency, influence and growth. They sacrifice growing parts of their own members to save the remaining community. The system amputates itself with the goal of becoming even more agile, running faster yet and staying ahead of the pack. What the leaders call “continuous change” is, in reality, an increasingly frantic repetition of known patterns. The members of the Council are willing to commit an act of flagrant disloyalty: secretly preparing the replacement of their own leader so as to keep intact the system he stands for.

Who are the candidates?

The candidates are the chosen ones, picked from the masses of followers to give testimony of their own worth. They must demonstrate their personal singularity. Thus they are caught between a rock and a hard place – the more they emphasize their independent individuality, the more they enter in contradiction to the engulfing uniqueness of the organization. Yet, if they succeed presenting themselves as dependent executors of the system – i.e. as mere representatives – all they show is a lack of distinguishing personal traits.

We are the candidates.