1/27th of a Love Letter: Reflections on art from the mailbox

Audrey Tran


Howdy. I’m here to write a few words about a mail-art project called Special Delivery. This project involves 28 artists who send each other 28 editioned art objects. Initiated in 2009 by the artist Robert Szantyr, Special Delivery has become an annual event and an alternative way of experiencing and sharing artwork among friends, colleagues, and strangers. As a general rule, I usually don’t post on events I’m involved with, but in this case, participation might breed the best reporting, especially since mail art is not usually shared publicly. The following thoughts revolve around one of the multiples that appeared in my mailbox during mid-January:

You hold 1/27th in your palm to understand its charm and grace. Physically, it is a glass-like, clean-cut rectangle of resin encasing a sliver of paper. The object is approximately one-inch tall, one-inch wide, and three-quarters of an inch thick. Someone’s handwriting is visible, though faint. My 1/27th only reveals the word “under” in one line, and “you have” in another line. The paper is two-sided and nothing on the back is legible. While holding it, I began wondering what minute phrases and snippets others received. Whatever meanings meant to be conveyed are now totally sliced up, the thoughts and feelings they once imparted now incomprehensible. And since no one except for Gustavson has read the letter in its entirety, the disconnected words retain the mysterious beauty of found text.

By giving away this cut-up letter, Gustavson has shared with us an intimate area of life, yet she has revealed very little. Both she and the other person pertaining to the note remain a mystery. We can only infer that, at one time, there had been two people and between them, at the very least, a letter existed. The stories and narratives streaming from these simple details could be boundless.

Gustavson has also enshrined a now archaic object—the hand-written note. The gesture has a pedestal effect to it: as the paper is placed in resin, we examine it as if it were placed on a pedestal for our attention. You may, as I did, begin thinking over scratched notes of your own past; or to contrast it, the electronic notes we now frequently post, often without censorship.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post on a few more of the pieces emerging from Special Delivery, which, I must note, is a pretty fantastic project. Alongside junk mail, bills, and bills-upon-bills, art pieces arrive neatly wrapped, checking the mail becomes more of a pleasure than a chore. For about two weeks I actually enjoy opening the mailbox.

—Audrey K. Tran


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