Postcard to a Stranger

Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) Fuse, i want to be alone (with you), Postcard to a Stranger

The Vancouver Art Gallery hosts periodic late-night parties they call “FUSE”. In addition to the ongoing fare of the current exhibitions, VAG brings in musicians, dancers and other performance artists; and there is usually an element of participatory art, as well. At the FUSE party around Halloween, for example, the guest-involvement piece had professional make-up artists from the Vancouver film industry creating gruesome wounds and fantastical face-paintings. At the most recent FUSE, entitled and themed “i want to be alone (with you)”, the project involved the writing and receiving of postcards to and from another guest, assigned at random.

“Postcard to a Stranger” was set-up in a broad gallery, with a partition wall conceptually demarking the table at which one completed a mailing label in order to be the recipient of a postcard, and the side of the room in which guests congregated around long tables or sat on the floor penning their pre-stamped postcards (supplied by VAG) to someone they would never know.

The idea of writing to strangers or sending messages into the world in a random way is not new. Kindness advocates have been known to write friendly letters to strangers selected at random. And at our Friends Without Borders “Love Letter” event in Bombay’s Wankhede Cricket Stadium, we indulged in the environmentally shameful, but extremely telegenic exercise of having a thousand school children attach notes of friendship, good will, and high spirit to orange, white, and green balloons and send them into the world. But, as always, VAG pulled-off this game smartly and with style. The symmetry of the sending/receiving relationship was spatially represented within the gallery room. The close proximity of the strangers who squeezed into table-spaces to write their cards gave the strong sense of community; and, at the same time, it gave the paradoxical feeling of alienation within that community, stemming from knowing neither any of the people around you, nor to whom the card you were writing might go. The process also drew attention to the physicality, intimacy, and artistry of this almost anachronistic form of communication. Writing a postcard represents the longest keyboardless writing I’ve done in memory, my penmanship generally reserved for my grocery lists.

I can’t recall exactly what I wrote, but it was something friendly, philosophical, and hopeful about the exercise. I’m not sure what Yoo-Mi wrote.

The postman has now delivered our postcards, written by others. Yoo-Mi’s card reads:

I’m standing right behind you. Don’t look! Kapon

Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) Fuse, i want to be alone (with you), Postcard to a Stranger

My card says:

Hey You – it’s me!

You are a truly gorgeous creature. I hope you know & feel that. Inside & out. I’m honoured to write to you. I mean who still actually ‘writes’ these days… it’s becoming a lost art to send hand-written words. Whenever you receive this, know that I was thinking of you when I sat quietly in the Art Gallery wondering who you are. And knowing you are great & mystifying. May this bring a little love & sunshine to you today. You deserve it.

Love Danae

Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) Fuse, i want to be alone (with you), Postcard to a Stranger

I’m feeling the love and the sunshine.

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8 Responses to “Postcard to a Stranger”


  1. 1 millyonair 8 April 2010 at 8:40 am

    hi Mark! That is a very, very cool idea. If you dug that, you might also like Postcrossing. It’s a website that organizes the sending and receiving of postcards from strangers around the world. I did it for a while, and really liked getting random postcards in my mailbox.

    http://www.postcrossing.com/

  2. 2 smita 24 April 2010 at 5:56 pm

    MBJ:

    This postcard experience was totally cool! But what followed is even cooler – an example of just how small the world really is, and the intangible ties that seem to link us together.

    -s

  3. 3 mbjesq 25 April 2010 at 12:12 am

    Smita is talking about an extremely fun coda to the postcard project. With a little luck, I discovered the author of my card and, along with Yoo-Mi and Smita, met for a lovely afternoon of frozen yogurt and conversation at English Bay Beach. The thing that made it cool, of course, was that Danae Johnson turns out to be cool, cool stuff.

    MBJ

  4. 4 Liz 1 June 2010 at 5:23 am

    The last time I got a greeting card in my mailbox was last January from someone who is already from the past.

    I miss receiving the usual postcards, greeting cards, letters in my mailbox. All I get in there are my bills! LOL!

    Technology has made us so dependent on e-mail but the ecstatic feeling you feel when getting these things traditionally are incomparable.

  5. 5 Austin Travel 13 June 2010 at 8:51 pm

    That looks like a really cool event!

  6. 6 betsy boop 26 May 2011 at 3:58 am

    SPEAKING OF POSTCARDS—->Interestingly, there’s this writer named FRANK WARREN who’s also a shrink :)He staged a clever social experiment where he would leave blank postcards all over the US (not sure specifically where, lemme check my book again). Like the usual postcard, it would have the stamp box, address space but this time all postcards are addressed to Frank himself. Of course with anonymous by-lines. But the real deal comes from the INSTRUCTION. People are encouraged to write their DEEP DARK SECRETS and mail it back to him.

    Months after the said social experiment, tons of postcards turned in!
    With interesting to shocking to depressing secrets were revealed. From eating only blue M&Ms, i cheated my way to the 5th grade, i never really loved my wife and were celebrating our 50th anniversary to i should be in jail and not dad.

    Eye-opening, hilarious, shocking, I’m at a loss for words–and I hope it gave the postcard writers the ‘relief’ they all wanted. With this social experiment, Frank Warren has published his 3rd BOOK OF SECRETS.

    I have all 3. And that’s my secret :)

  7. 7 jasonbox 11 September 2011 at 8:30 am

    Wow, although I probably shouldn’t be, I’m surprised at how many postcards are making their ways to strangers right now. I should have Googled “postcard to a stranger” before I dedicated one of my blog entries to the topic.

    Here’s a guy (http://postcardstostrangers.com/default.aspx) who writes postcards to well known individuals like the chairman of Starbucks, David Copperfield, the president of Roto-Rooter, and the chief administrator of NASA. I like what he’s doing, but it makes me wonder what the criteria for ‘strangerdom’ is. Are celebrities like Copperfield strangers?

    And help me out with this one — what would you call a group of strangers? A strangle? A strange?

  8. 8 Danae 27 August 2012 at 2:50 am

    This is wild! It seems as if I write this. I am Danae Cloud. I googled my name and saw this. It even looks like my hand writing. Weird!! Well, good to meet u!


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