My campus post office has a bulletin-board wall across from the PO boxes for flyers. The wall has separate spaces for each day of the week (so that you can look at one day-section and see what events are going on that day) and an 8.5×11 grid system (so posters stay [relatively] organized; you can see the white lines above). I was checking my mail and found that a collection of posters had taken over part of the bulletin board, displacing announcements seeking subjects for psych studies and flyers advertising cultural events. Write To Someone, the posters instruct.
The installation is made up of individual pre-stamped postcards, four to a perforated sheet, forming the cells of the larger image, which itself represents a postcard. Or write to me, they offer, giving the anonymous artist’s address: PO Box 200131, New Haven CT, 06520.
The bulletin-board take-over is a compelling manifestation of how we annotate physical space, following some of its rules and bending or breaking others in order to use it to our own ends, in order to see ourselves in the walls and spaces around us.
There’s a compelling recursive geometry to this collection of posters, that while the large image of a postcard is formed from smaller real postcards, the message remains consistent. And there’s an element of decay: The message is loudest when the postcards are collected en masse, as they are now; the installation will slowly lose its power over the viewer as viewers collectively participate, taking away postcards to write to the artist, and, in so doing, destroying the installation. The postcard will slowly fade out, reabsorbed into the patchwork of flyers.
Implicit rules, implicit restrictions: Take one only if you intend to use it, leave postcards for others to take. The assumptions we make about material interactions; the obligations we feel (or don’t).
The message, too, is interesting: This isn’t a request to write back to the artist, post-secret style, but a command to write to someone, anyone, a reclamation of the power of the written word. (So what does it say that I’m blogging about it?) I took one thinking I would write back to the artist, but as I started thinking about people in my life—people nearby, far away; people I talk with daily, people I’ve lost touch with—I realized that not only are there a lot of people I should write to, but I don’t have to choose between them. The postcard I took is a physical and metaphorical invitation to write—not just to one person, but to many.