»A positive, sunny, sort of perky attitude«

»Dem Brief droht das Schicksal, nicht mehr geschrieben zu werden«, lautete der einleitende Satz anlässlich unseres Essays zum »Brief als Ereignis« (vgl. Spex #323). Der Großteil unserer Kommunikation wird heutzutage digital geführt, dem gegenüber steht ein neuer Trend zum klassischen Briefwechsel – ob wie zuletzt in Buchform oder nun als Kunstprojekt. Die britische Künstlerin Lenka Clayton, u.a. bekannt für ihre Artworks der Matthew-Herbert-Alben »Score«, »Scale« und »There’s Me and There’s You« sowie durch ihre Arbeit »Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet« (vgl. Spex #309, Spex-CD #73), überträgt mit ihrer neuen Arbeit »Mysterious Letters« den Postbrief gleich auf ganze Gemeinden. Gemeinsam mit Michael Crowe will sie nun jedem Menschen auf der Welt einen Brief schicken und sucht dafür mittels Crowdfunding nach neuen Investoren. Was hinter der Idee zu »Mysterious Letters« steckt, erfragte Martin Hossbach im Interview mit Clayton – das wir hier im englischsprachigen Original anbieten.

Lenka, why do you and Michael Crowe want to write a letter to everyone in the world?
    Well, we are just really, really, really social. I have no comprehension of shyness and Michael has absolutely no idea about other people’s personal boundaries. We realised we both often used to simply walk into people’s homes unannounced and start shaking hands with the stunned homeowners / lodgers / pets inside. Actually, none of that is true.

    We both wondered what we would write to everyone if we had the opportunity of writing to everyone. What would we want to say? What message have we got for the world, if any at all? What can be said that’s not spectacularly obvious or ridiculous or wrong? Since we both wondered what it would be like to make that massive connection, we just decided to go for it, to sort of honour the coincidence of our weird idea. And now we’ve started, we know it’s a huge amount of fun to drop hundreds of letters into a town. We also hope people on the receiving end enjoy it too.

What are the contents of the letters? What do you and Michael write about? Does each individual receive an individual letter? Do you always use the same kind of paper? You don’t, as we can see from the beautiful scans shown at your Blog
    The letters can be about anything at all. Memories, facts, predictions, stories, confessions, anything. We try to give them all a positive, sunny, sort of perky attitude. Some include special little gifts, they’re all different shapes and sizes. The wide variety keeps it interesting for us as we make and make. Every letter is individual, hand made, speedily, carefully made.

Lenka Clayton Michael Crowe Mysterious LettersThe first letters you wrote were sent to »467 households in the small Irish village of Cushendall«. Bill Drummond (The 17, formerly a member of The KLF) owns a tower there. In that tower you wrote most of the letters, is that right? What was Drummond’s involvement in the project?
    Yes, we wrote all of those 467 letters in that tower which Bill Drummond owns. He lets artists stay in it and work, rent free. His involvement was simply to let us stay there, which was a huge help as the little town surrounding the tower was just the perfect size for us to start the project. One day, every home in Cushendall (where the tower is) got a letter from us, on the same day, making this large mysterious puzzle of post.

After having written so many letters, do you still like to send letters to friends?
    We do! We are avid writers of letters! Luckily there is no upper limit on the number of letters that can be written. We’re happy to bore as many people as possible until they suggest we stop.

In November 2009 you sent »another bundle of letters, this time 620, to each home in Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, USA«. Why Pittsburgh? And was the people’s reaction different to the feedback you received in Cushendall?
    We try to steer clear of the reaction, as we feel that belongs to each town. In Ireland we sent to every single home in Cushendall. About 0.1% of the reaction was picked up on a BBC news report. Some people were baffled, others happily confused, some slightly afraid. In Pittsburgh, some people wrote back to us after finding us on the internet, the responses ranging from a disappointed woman whose neighbours had all received a letter but hers was lost in the post, to a man who tried to sue us, though it later turned out that no crime had been committed.

    On the two occasions we’ve done this so far, we’ve been careful to explain what we’re doing in the letters to the local retirement home, as we don’t want to upset. We write the letters in a positive, perky, friendly, upbeat style. We consider the art not to be the letters, but the chatter spreading across the town, the community curiosity, which differs from place to place. It’s not the witnessing of these conversations that is important to us, but the certain knowledge that something happened, and the wondering about what that might have been.

Lenka Clayton Michael Crowe Mysterious LettersYou’re asking people now to give you money to finance the next »bundle of letters«. What do you need the money for? Postage? Travels? Pens? Usually, an artist has a gallery and they sell the artist’s work. In your case, that’s slightly more complicated, isn’t it? Is using Kickstarter the only possibility for you to earn some money? Please explain how Kickstarter works. What do the people backing you get from you?
    Kickstarter builds little communities of people who are invested in wanting the project to happen. This source of funding mirrors our project; strangers united around an idea, supporting strangers to send letters to strangers. It’s beautifully indirect but precise. Kickstarter is a magical website that allows people to describe their unfunded creative endeavours, to set a funding goal and time limit, then to try to attract backers with a series of rewards. Rewards for backing »Mysterious Letters« include; A unique buried treasure map (with a real treasure), a personal haiku poem, postcards written while drunk, a beautiful book of 100 mysterious letters and the best letter we’ve ever written,  hand-delivered to your home.

    Michael and I live in different continents so we need the money for travel and short term residence in a remote location (the travel to our next destination is a bit complicated), postage, stationary, and research. 

Apart from writing letters what do you do these days? What other projects are Michael and you working on? I heard you, Lenka are working on the artwork for Matthew Herbert’s »One Club«?
    Michael is currently writing a book of short stories called »The Elderly«. Lenka is trying to record everything everyone says, and working on artwork for Matthew Herbert.

 

Alle Abbildungen: Mit freundlicher Genehmigung © Lenka Clayton / Michael Crowe

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