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Art

Mysterious Letters, Part 2

Posted by Will Hudson,

Mysterious Letters is back! And this time you can help, created by Lenka Clayton and Michael Crowe the project sets out to write a personalised hand written letter to everyone on the planet, including you.

The project is up on Kickstarter where you can support part two, the funding will be spent on little stamps, large envelopes, etc. and you will also get anything from a your name added to a list or choosing the next town they write to. We found out what else they had planned…

So, where to start? Back in April you sent 467 households in the small Irish Village of Cushendall a personal handwritten letter. For anyone that’s not seen it can you explain…

We came up with the idea to write a letter to everyone in the world in the British Library in London. Over tea in the cafeteria, I saw that Michael had written in his sketchbook; “Write a letter to everyone in the World”. I remembered having exactly the same idea, and writing it in my own sketchbook. We decided to honour the coincidence by doing it as a collaborative project. We started with the village of Cushendall in Northern Ireland. We were interested to see how it would be to write to hundreds of strangers and what we might say.

We didn’t put a return address on the letters. We were interested in just imagining what might have happened when each home received a personal hand-written letter on the same day as every other household in a remote village. It was like a giant puzzle the whole town had to group together to figure out. We imagined the postman with his unusually heavy bag, being forced up each path to each front door for the first time. We imagined the discussion that would take place at the breakfast table between the parents and children. We imagined chatty neighbours over the fence, the realisation that they too had a letter, a different one, from the same unknown senders. We imagined the realisation, and the questions (who? what? why?) that would spread across the village, causing comparisons between the letters and reactions unique to the recipients. The project arrived on each person’s doorstep and gave everybody a reason or excuse to talk to their neighbours or strangers for a few days. It poses the question whether that happened, and doesn’t attempt to answer it. We decided that the art of this piece was the conversations the letters provoked.

Any favourite letters you can remember?

One that sticks out mentions a giraffe giving birth. It was casually mentioned on BBC Ireland and it sounded like a Chris Morris type spoof. Another was for the local primary school and we asked for it to be read out at assembly, which sort of turned all the children into little detectives with this huge mysterious letters case to crack. We tried to keep it all very mystifying, but in the letters we sent to the old people’s home, we let them in on what was happening because we didn’t upset or confuse them. All the letters are on mysteriousletters.blogspot.com
which is a bit of luck because we almost didn’t scan any of them.

You’re in the process of planning part 2, what can we expect?

Hopefully, if people lend a lovely hand then part two will be a more streamlined voluptuous mystery. We can promise more smoke and more mirrors. Alex can expect it to be bigger, brighter, faster and baked to a finer crisp. Will, you can expect it to be slower, closer, wetter, newer and more honeyed. Michael has been working on his spidery, floppy handwriting so hopefully some of his sentences will be legible this time. We’ll be writing to a mysterious location currently covered with a huge black dry-cleaned tablecloth. Everything else about part two is a secret I’m afraid. We hope all of the letters will be posted on the blog by the end of November.

The project is also on Kickstarter, what we can expect if we support the project.

We funded the part 1 ourselves (except getting to live for free in an artist’s residency tower) but have now run clean out of funds. So we posted the next chapter project on Kickstarter to raise money for the 1000 stamps, envelopes etc. for the next town. There are some glorious rewards for people who support the project including the chance to receive mail; from drunken postcards to a hand delivered letter anywhere in the world, and even the chance to decide which entire town will be the next to receive letters. (Many of the rewards will soon wind up at auction houses to be fought over in frenzied, ecstatic bidding wars by the world’s rich elite.) We’re some way off our target at the moment so any help would be delightful.

If you could write a letter to anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you say?

I think it would be great to send a letter to someone who was completely and utterly lost. (Bear with me) Perhaps they’ve somehow bumbled their way (notice: a slight limp) into an empty damp house which they know they’ve no place being in. It’s 3am. The whole place stinks of evil and downright terror. The place is littered with Friends DVD boxsets. Our little misplaced friend is extremely anxious about getting caught. Look at those trembling hands! After a seemingly endless night of troubled dreams and howling, circling wolves, this uninvited little guest flinches from a noise at the front door… Gently, with a pounding heart and teary eyes they tip-toe up to the door. A letter… A letter! My name! My name! Is this… a miracle!? Is this a mirac… But I think to answer the question: Tina Turner. We’d ask for news on tour dates.

Lenka and Michael were also kind enough to talk as part of the It’s Nice That Talks Series, watch it here.

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Posted by Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded. He is a regular guest on the Studio Audience podcast.

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