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 "Bloodline: just a new ARG?" (Mariano Tomatis) 
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Iscritto il: 17 giugno 2004, 12:18 am
Messaggi: 3002
Località: Torino
Messaggio "Bloodline: just a new ARG?" (Mariano Tomatis)
For English speaking: http://www.renneslechateau.it/rennes-le-chateau.php?sezione=studi&id=arg

In this short paper I will offer a new point of view from which to analyse the Rennes-le-Château phenomenon: I'm suggesting that many modern approaches to the matter can be better interpreted as complex ARGs, created for economical purposes and/or personal pleasure.

Background

The curious life of a Catholic priest, Bérenger Saunière, has been so far analysed as not many other biographies, and the surrounding geographical area, in the South of France, has been digged, studied and visited by thousands of tourists looking for treasures, positive vibrations or archaeological relics.

Despite of some previous references to treasures in the surroundings, like in most of the places in the world, the life of the priest showed some elements typical of his time (selling masses, political and religious struggles flown into the symbols in the decorations, etc.) but very little evidences of treasures found in the area (just uncontrolled gossip about possible sources of his wealth).

The absence of solid documentation about any treasure found by the priest led to the creation, by different groups of people, during the 20th century of a number of false documents, artifacts and apocripha, for reasons upon which modern researchers still haven't reached a consensus.

The most frequently quoted example is the literary production of Pierre Plantard and Philippe de Chérisey, who created - and deposited to the French National Library in Paris - a great number of documents regarding the survival of a hidden Merovingian dynasty, whose heir is Plantard.

Both skeptics and believers fail in explaining the reasons behind the impressive work by Plantard, who spent many years in defining his own mythology, some way coherent with historical facts and introducing inhedit elements supporting his alternate version of French history.

The core of the activity of many creators of historical artifacts and documents is the purpose of suggesting "alternate" version of history, all of which are more romantic and "interesting" than the so-called "ortodox" version - the one given in academic papers. Like in novels and movies, the alternate versions of the history of Rennes-le-Château describe its priest Bérenger Saunière as a member of secret societies, a wizard of old egyptian cults, and the area is full of hidden tombs, chests full of treasures and clues on their trail, all linked through complex geometries, anagrams, and mysterious inscriptions; all the characters involved show a double personality: the public and the esoterical one. The latter is the one which cannot be found in official biographies, but only through a reinterpretation of the clues found somewhere in the area surrounding Rennes-le-Château (i.e. Nicolas Poussin and Pope John XXIII, but even Jean Cocteau and Jesus Christ).

Alternate Reality Game

The idea of implanting false clues and documents in the reality, pretending them to be real, is at the basis of the so-called ARGs (Alternate Reality Games). An ARG is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions.

The form is typified by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants' responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game's designers. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.

Modern ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail, but their model can be useful to interpret the birth and the development of large communities discussing about a single theme.

Alternate Reality and Rennes-le-Château

ARG model is very useful to describe Plantard's activity: like many ARGs' creator, he defined an Alternate Reality typical of lost treasure novels, and created a large set of props (including maps, documents, genealogies, newspaper clips, etc.) which implanted in the real world by depositing them in the French National Library or publishing in books (i.s. La Vraie Langue Celtique Belfond Edition, 1978).

The idea of implanting props in the real world is now achieved by publishing books or writing ads on newspapers. One of the most recent ARGs is The Lost Experience, designed by the writers and producers of Lost to engage fans and expand the storyline. According to a New York Times article, the game had been "a multimedia treasure hunt that makes use of e-mail messages, phone calls, commercials, billboards and fake Web sites that are made to seem real". What's more, there were no winning prizes, but the Experience claimed to offer clues that could unlock some of the island's many secrets.

All the elements of ARG model can be easily recognised in Pierre Plantard's activity:

1) Puppetmaster

A puppetmaster is the individual involved in designing and/or running an ARG. His real identity may or may not be known ahead of time. Plantard was very good in unveiling some material without getting too much attention on him. Holy Blood Holy Grail confirmed his will of keeping himself hidden from the large public, letting his own material to create new interpretations out of his explicit intervention on the discussions.

It would also be interesting to analyse his interventions on the debate raised upon his mythology, and a chronological approach to the evolution of his mythology from 1956 to 1989 (developed on his writings) could be extremely revealing.

2) The Curtain

The curtain is generally a metaphor for the separation between the puppetmasters and the players. This can take the traditional form of absolute secrecy regarding the puppetmasters' identities and involvement with the production, or refer merely to the convention that puppetmasters do not communicate directly with players through the game, interacting instead through the characters and the game's design. The secrecy of the Priory of Sion was the curtain behind which Plantard kept himself apart from the researchers, justifying the apparent incoherence of the mythology he offered in his writings.

3) Rabbithole

Also known as a Trailhead. A Rabbithole marks the first website, contact, or puzzle that starts off the ARG.

Pierre Plantard used (at least) four "rabbitholes": the first one was L'Or de Rennes by Gérard de Sède; the second one was the issue #18 of French review Le Charivari, published on 1973, written by Jean-Luc Chaumeil with his help; the third one was his preface to the Belfond edition of La Vraie Langue Celtique, published on 1978; the fourth and most important one was the book by Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh Holy Blood Holy Grail. Each of them revealed the following clues towards the alternate scenario of French history created by Pierre Plantard (the first one declared the existence of Priory of Sion and of a series of documents deposited at French National Library; the second one declared the existence of 12 chests around Rennes-les-Bains; the third one was the first attempt to sort out the material and provide an interpretation of the scenario).

It is interesting to see that Plantard implanted in Holy Blood Holy Grail some of his ideas through his authors, who were both players of his ARG and authors, together with him. Almost the same could be said about Gérard de Sède.

4) This Is Not A Game (TINAG)

Setting the ARG form apart from other games is the This Is Not A Game aesthetic, which dictates that the game not behave like a game: phone numbers mentioned in the ARG, for example, should actually work, and the game should not provide an overtly-designated playspace or ruleset to the players.

This is the strongest feature of ARGs - and also of Plantard's mythology, linking old mythemas with inhedit elements, so creating an alternate reality which mixed symbols and ideas in a syncretic way: Freemasonry, Catharism, Holy Heart-ism, Politics, Templarism... The scenario created by him was designed as a complex octopus the study of which can be both disturbing or extremely funny.

So far, just a few researchers have supported the idea that Plantard's scenario was just an alternate version of history, supported by false documents and props created by him.

The problem of mixing reality with fantasy (and not being able to distinguish between real and fake artifacts) has some consequences, i.e. the inhability of providing coherent scenarios and finding the hidden treasures many believers are looking for.

Evolution of Rennes-le-Château ARGs

Plantard's mythology is probably the most successful ARG in the history of Rennes-le-Château, but it is not the only one. Many other so-called "researchers" based their own studies on false documents, created with different purposes, and many Web forums are full of players discussing the theories raising from that material, fitting very well the TINAG aesthetic. The ads for the book by Patrice Chaplin City of Secrets used fake photos and letters of Bérenger Saunière in order to sell it, and some forums are still discussing the historical basis of the alternate reality described in its pages.

One of the most recent examples of ARG is the one created to support Bloodline - The movie. The use of YouTube and websites in support of the movie, the style of ads and the nature of the artifacts found (letters miming Saunière's calligraphy, roman coins bought on Ebay and typical objects of treasure hunting like papers sealed in bottles) make of it one of the most typical Rennes-le-Château ARG in the age of Internet (probably more successful than André Douzet's attempt to link Rennes-le-Château mystery to Perillos through a maquette, strange letters of Saunière from Lyon and so on).

Like any other previous ARG, Bloodline - The movie discoveries couldn't raise any interest by DRAC, the official archaeological body of France, and the discovery of the material announced in the movie was made without any official authorization; being just a theatrical stage, the fact is not strange.

There is no doubt about the fact these ARGs will always be successful for their purpose of providing deeply emotional and immersive experiences to the players. Most of the tourists in Rennes-le-Château are not only spectator, but - thanks to De Sède, Plantard, Lincoln, Wood, Douzet and so on - they are now real players in a game whose stage is more similar to the one in Indiana Jones movies than the real world. The ARGs described so far are clever enough in not defining a unique winner, because all of them suggest the existence of a secret knowledge which can be discovered and shared between "initiates".

Many of these ARGs are by now "self-supporting": the material published by Plantard, for example, is so complex that, with the help of new players and websites discussing the matters, new links will emerge in the future, "supporting" and enlarging the mythology. The absence of boundaries in Rennes-le-Château pseudohistoriography has already been analysed by the author.

Although some skeptical researcher labels them as "bullshit", there's probably something more, from a psychological point of view, justifying their strong appeal.

_________________
Mariano Tomatis Antoniono


2 maggio 2008, 2:43 pm
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Iscritto il: 17 giugno 2004, 12:18 am
Messaggi: 3002
Località: Torino
Messaggio 
My theory has been quoted here:

http://infocult.typepad.com/infocult/2008/05/another-arg-ant.html

_________________
Mariano Tomatis Antoniono


28 maggio 2008, 4:36 pm
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Iscritto il: 28 giugno 2007, 9:01 pm
Messaggi: 46
Località: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Messaggio evereything said and done?
As you know, dear Mariano: there are still some questions open. If it would not be like this, especially an ambitious guy like you would not waste a minute on these open riddles on RlC. Treasure or not, this was never my question, but I feel (to be honest more in my stomach than in my thoughts) that there happened something very unusual or strange in the diocese of Carcassonne, former Alet-les-Bains. Priests where murdered one day before retirement or deceased only one year after their installement. Priests, who digged up the parish cementry and others, who faked the tombstones (Fleury) or wrote very strange books. Their common bishop received undoubtfully uncountable Fortunes and deserved obviously a some thoausand francs worthful calvaire reminding just one useless 40 kilometers visiting trip.

I dont need no ARGs, I am rather happy to improve my base french by reading never boaring books on the tiniest village, the world literature has ever take any remarkable interest in. :D


Ultima modifica di Markus su 29 maggio 2008, 3:40 pm, modificato 1 volte in totale.

28 maggio 2008, 7:38 pm
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Iscritto il: 28 giugno 2007, 9:01 pm
Messaggi: 46
Località: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Messaggio 
That does not mean, that I am going to help any of these Jesus-grave-victims.

As a very passionate numismatist, I was one of the first to detect Tombmans ridiculous efforts to prove Magdalenas presence in France by one of these very common so-called "M-Follis" minted in the 11.th century by byzantine authorities, to be collected in that poor state of preservation for example at London coin-shops on a "pay-two-get-three" basis for less than a chinese dinner.


Ultima modifica di Markus su 29 maggio 2008, 3:41 pm, modificato 1 volte in totale.

28 maggio 2008, 7:49 pm
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Iscritto il: 17 giugno 2004, 12:18 am
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Località: Torino
Messaggio 
IMHO there's enough "strangeness" in the world that anyone can look for it almost everywhere. I don't think that the area around RLC is particularly strange: it is as strange as any other place in the world. What's different is the eye looking at it.
We spend our efforts on it, so it is strange. But if we changed our focus, I'm sure we'd find the same amount of strangeness.
I'm really curious about this antropological phenomenon, which I consider a great and innocent game, that's why I spend a lot of time in analysing it.

_________________
Mariano Tomatis Antoniono


28 maggio 2008, 9:13 pm
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Iscritto il: 28 giugno 2007, 9:01 pm
Messaggi: 46
Località: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Messaggio 
Mariano Tomatis ha scritto:
there's enough "strangeness" in the world that anyone can look for it almost everywhere.

... But if we changed our focus, I'm sure we'd find the same amount of strangeness.


Yes, thanks god, you are absolutely right with this! :D


31 maggio 2008, 11:15 am
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