The Disconnected Events That Began This Project
It sort of began like this…
Me: “I didn’t know you were doing that.”
Friend “I posted it on Facebook.”
Then this happened, a lot…
Colleague: “There you are! I’ve been looking for you! I sent you an email trying to find you!”
Me: “If you needed me right away you should have gotten up from your desk and looked for me.”
And then these things kept popping up…
Notification: “It’s So and So’s Birthday today! Wish them a Happy Birthday!”
Me: “Who is that?”
And of course, there were the illuminated manuscripts.
My son came home several weeks ago fascinated by the illuminated manuscripts he was learning about in school.
Son: “Hey, Mom. Do you know why there are pictures sometimes in the middle of pages in the illuminated manuscripts?”
Me: “No, why?”
Son: “Because if they made a mistake and couldn’t scrape off the ink and fix it, they turned it into a picture, because God couldn’t make mistakes.”
Me: “Hmm, is that so?”
This became one of those things that I just couldn’t get out of my mind.
Like most people, I suspect, it is rare that I handwrite anything any more. Thinking about the manuscripts, and watching my son handwrite his homework, I remembered how laborious it used to be in school when I was writing a final copy of an essay or a report and I would make a mistake. I would have to start all over again, or the teacher would think I was sloppy and uncaring. Why didn’t I think of something like turning the mistake into a doodle, without the gold leaf mind you.
Or, when I would handwrite those fill-in-the-blank invitations to a party and would make a mistake and have to throw it away and start a new one. Inviting 10 people, package contains 8 cards, buy two packages, 6 mistakes allowed.
Or, when I was writing a letter, how I used to write it out first and then copy it over on “good” paper, leaving my mistakes behind and sending a new “perfect” version.
Today, with electronic communication, mistakes don’t really seem to matter all that much. I have a colleague who has “Words mangled by Apple” on the bottom of his emails as a way of absolving himself from any accountability for his mistakes. With auto-correct, the delete key, or backspace, we can pretty much get most transmissions out mistake free. How great! Now we can write things almost at the speed of our thoughts and make corrections just about as fast. Does that mean we are sending out perfect communiqués, or is it simply the form that is perfect while the content is even less so.
How often have you hit send on a grammatically correct, spell-checked, document or email, only to think about it later and wish you had thought about its content more and perhaps rewritten it or never sent it in the first place? I know I have. Maybe it was the speed in which I could write that caused the regret? Maybe if I had given it more time I would have crafted something more meaningful? Maybe meaningful content shouldn’t be sent electronically?
As I pondered the discipline of writing illuminated manuscripts, my phone rang with a notification. Apparently, one of my Facebook “friends” was having a birthday. That’s nice, but who is this person? I had no idea.
The next morning was a busy one at work. I was rarely at my desk. After a meeting, I was walking down the hall past some of my colleagues’ offices and one of them screamed out at me, “Where’ve you been! I’ve been trying to find you! I sent you an email looking for you!” Really? You tried to find me with an email? Is it really expected that people read their emails as soon as they come in?
Later that night at dinner, I was with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and we began with the usual “What’s been going on?” As my friend began to recant her past few months, she would punctuate her explanation with “I posted it on Facebook.” Sort of like, “Duh, aren’t you keeping up with you social media/” No, I’m not. Which finally brings me to how these disconnected events led to this project.
How connected are we really in this hyper connected world? Are we closer as a result? We certainly “know” more about each other, but are we connecting in a way that is enriching our lives or is it just reporting? Is social media just too much because I have been on the planet long enough to have accumulating too many “friends” and “colleagues”?
I decided to run an experiment of sorts. I put illuminated manuscripts and social media in a blender and came up with letters. Handwritten letters. What happens when you invite all of your “friends” to write to you? What happens when you have to write back? Is the handwritten letter perhaps an art form now? A relic?
For the length of this project, I will write letters to people and reply to people who write to me. As I have done with my other art projects, I will document the process in this blog as this project takes on its form.