Illustrator, Writer and Satirist, Mark Wilson, in conversation with FOTW's Kayla Jenkins
PowerPoint Eulogy by Mark Wilson
“He painted two pigs with the numbers ‘one’ and ‘three’ on them and turned them loose in the office. One spent twenty minutes painfully choking on a dry eraser, before finally dying outside of the boardroom. The other remains unaccounted for, but the office smells like rot.”
Three corporate hours have been allotted to commemorate the life of enigma, Bill Motluck. Employee memories of his life are crudely recounted onto a dusty projector. No one has ever been quite sure of his purpose. No one is quite sure who wrote the PowerPoint...but it seems to be exposing them all, one by one.
Kayla: Where did the focus on office life stem from? Has it very much come from a background of working in corporate yourself, or external influences such as movie or cultural depiction? Is it a running theme across your works?
Mark: My obsession with corporate suffering definitely birthed from thousands of hours melting under fluorescent lights and attending five hour strategy meetings about nothing in particular with coworkers you barely recognize. It’s funny because as lifeless as it is, that deadness is almost comical at times.
It is definitely a running theme though! It’s cathartic to write about some of those experiences because it at least gives you the illusion that the relentless mundanity is providing something necessary to the creative process vs. just bleeding you out slowly.
Kayla: If Bill (God rest his soul) were still alive today and living through the pandemic, what do you think he would be up to? I’d like to think if he were here in the UK, he would have totally hopped on the banana bread baking trend, but what are your thoughts?
Mark: Haha! Incredible question. I could see him writing a novel about skim milk that no one would ever read or converting his life savings into microwave dinners or maybe crochet a pair of khaki pants that he could wear to be buried in eventually.
Kayla: One of the stand-out features of PowerPoint Eulogy aside from the writing itself are your incredibly visceral drawings – were they conceptualised before the story, or did they come to life after the story had been written? What’s the artistic process been like for these illustrations?
Mark: Thank you so much for the kind words. Those were conceptualised after the story had been written and Isabelle suggested that my drawing style might look great on the cover. It was so easy to illustrate because of how familiar I was with Bill, his essence flaccidly leaked from my stylus like day old coffee. My drawing style is usually focused on physical and mental decay, with very deflated looking humanoid creatures, so it fit perfectly with the words in the story.
Kayla: Your writing style in PowerPoint Eulogy is unique in the way you’re combining forms (elements of poetry, prose, and infamous PowerPoint Slide tropes to name a few!). How did the idea for this hybrid come about? Was it easy to put onto the page once you’d visualised it, or did your original plan change over time?
Mark: It was such a crazy process! I originally was trying to write them all so they would stay within Twitter’s character limits and I was going to post them in this massive Twitter thread eulogizing this fictional person, but as it continued to evolve, I felt like it was becoming something special, and decided to make a few of the pieces longer and actually submit it. I wrote most of the ones on Bill to start, then I wanted to paint the rest of the office characters while leaving it up to the reader to discern who was being remembered in what slide, so that part was really fun too.
Kayla: Obviously, you have your second poetry book, “Until No Crevice Remained” coming out with Orbis Tertius in the late Spring, but do you have any other plans for where you want to take your writing in the future? Any themes you want to tackle, or any new concepts for making us all question our reality or become filled with existential dread?
Mark: Yes! I’ve got “Until No Crevice Remained” which is a weird documentation of humanity’s collective descent into characterless beige orbs. Then I have another one coming out with Close to the Bone in May of 2022 that is a collection of short stories about death called “Sparsely Attended Funeral,” and I’m currently finishing up a piece called “very! shitty! job!” about that are surrealist short stories birthed from a newspaper’s classifieds section that contains all of these bizarre and horrific jobs.
I also hope to one day write about something that isn’t death or sadness, but sometimes I adhere to the motto “write sad, live happy,” not sure if that is trademarked, but maybe that idiotic airport brand “Life is Good,” could put it on a shirt in Comic Sans.
Kayla: And just a last quick question – do you have any advice for those writers looking to explore themes like those in PowerPoint Eulogy, including this strange (and yet undeniably wonderful) intimacy of workplace drudgery?
Mark: There is a story in every wrinkle, in every burp, in every post-nasal wheeze, every miserable anniversary celebration or sad, shared office bathroom. When writing this, I relied heavily on the boredom experienced during insufferable moments and the opportunity it provided to collect all of these super vivid memories or descriptions. Relish in any moment or emotion that you can draw from later, essentially create your own library of mouldable stock photography that can be positioned in whatever depraved manner you deem necessary.
You can grab a copy of PowerPoint Eulogy and wallow in the joy and misery that is Bill Motluck here for £6.99 (limited edition).