The first thing to get out of the way is the # (hash) at the beginning: this comes from Twitter and my year of creating a collage every day under the hashtag #Collage365. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, the # symbol is used as a device to make searching easier and associate tweets with a specific subject. Web design uses hidden lists of subject words, metatags, to help search engines find and index content. With the rise of blogging these hidden index phrases became public and visible and became just “tags”. Twitter’s limited number of characters meant that users needed a way to highlight a word as a “tag” and suffixing with a # was the solution – the “hashtag” – subsequently taken up by Facebook and others. So by using the hashtag #Letter365 as the project name it links it to my successful history of a publically-proclaimed, daily discipline and makes a mark in social media as well as causing a little curiosity.
Well 365 is pretty obvious. I will be creating a new, unique artwork each and every day for one whole year with the last one being created on the preview opening of the installation in the Allsop Gallery at Bridport Arts Centre on 6th March 2015.
That leaves us with Letter. Why Letter and not Mail or Post or Package or Parcel for example? Well Mail and Post suggest the process of delivery and only by inference the items so conveyed. #Letter365 is not principally about getting posted and delivered by whatever means. Putting it into a post box or arranging for its delivery in some way is principally a device to ensure and document that I keep up with the daily discipline of creating the work before midnight each day.
It is also important to me that I get it out of my hands and into a place where I – and for that matter anybody else – can not tamper with it further. Each piece is a product of the day and reflects that day’s process. The brilliant thing about a daily process such as this or #Collage365 is that it sharpens the critical faculties and the decision-making processes. I cannot afford to get caught up in reviewing pieces on another day and wanting to change or touch up work later. I aim to ensure that I am happy with each piece each day and stand by that.
So why not a package or a parcel? I am already wondering how I can get round the self-imposed rules of the envelope having to be no larger than ordinary letter size! If I had not imposed some size discipline I could easily end up sending large pieces causing an even bigger storage problem for the Arts Centre across the year.
In any case, I have a great fondness for the letter. Everyone likes to receive letters and yet few of us send them anymore. Verbal communication over distance is almost exclusively electronic and digital for most of us and visual communication is going the same way. We demand instant gratification of our desire to know what is going on with our friends and family. We can barely resist the notification tone on our phones for a minute or two. Nevertheless, many of us remember the sweet anticipation, an anticipation that lasted days, of waiting for a reply to our letters. For anyone involved or interested in #Letter365 the anticipation is pretty long! Everyone wants to know what is in the letter you received.
The letters I loved most often included pictures, drawings, maps, photographs, plans, recipes, cuttings and more. My friend Anita in Minneapolis wrote letters that would take your breath away – and still do when I come across the ones I kept. Most of these things you can append to your emails or stick on Pinterest or send a link to.
So what I aim to do is to create something each day that we can’t easily do electronically and digitally: something personal, intimate and largely hand-made; something that reflects each day of my life for a year; something of value worth waiting a while for.
So #Letter365 seems an ideal title.