From January 1st to December 31st of 2020, I orchestrated a postcard exchange art project called, “How’s the weather here there?” as a way to create connections, a space for anyone to participate in an art practice, and make an abstract record of the year.
I did not know what an incredibly historic year it would become and how the importance of connecting to others in this way would carry me through the socially distanced reality of the pandemic. The instructions were to describe your current inner and outer landscape (physical space, emotional state, whatever that means to you) on a postcard and mail it to me and I would respond with one if a return address was provided.
People responded. I received about 430 postcards from 16 different countries around the world. Postcards came from all kinds of different people sharing art and thoughts and feelings with me. A few came from friends but most came from strangers. Many people remained anonymous. I had postcards from children as well as well-known organizations and accomplished artists, writers, and professionals in their field. Several people became pandemic penpals who I hope to meet in real life one day.
These small, personal documents cover some things that happened to us in 2020. The overarching event being the coronavirus pandemic with its many issues such as the loss of loved ones, racism against Asian and Asian-American people, the toilet paper shortage, isolation, anxiety, depression, working from home, and having kids schooled at home. Other major events that are documented in the collection are the Black Lives Matter movement, Portland protests, the wildfires on the U.S. west coast and in Australia, U.S. postal service funding issues and delays, everything surrounding issues with the Trump presidency leading up to the election and post-election results, Brexit, the SpaceX launch, the deaths of John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the great planetary conjunction on the winter solstice. Not to mention the hopes and fears of everyday living.
Although the participation call ended at the end of the year, I was responding to those who sent postcards postmarked by the last day for another month. I’ve finished the exchange portion of the project and closed the post office box. A major part of my weekly routine of checking the box and responding with postcards in the mail ended.
The next portion of the project is to exhibit the collection in its entirety and to publish a selection of these as a book where a portion of the proceeds will support organizations assisting people who are experiencing homelessness, who do not have an address to participate in a project like this one to continue the exchange in generosity and connection.
Unfortunately, I had an exhibition plan scheduled that was canceled due to the pandemic but it will happen at some point in the future. One interesting discovery was that I found social media did not generate as much participation as other forums. Participants responded actively to many other forms of engagement including open calls on art posting sites, forums, or listservs, one print ad in a magazine, and by personal invitations.
Due to the multiple weird messages that I received on popular social media platforms, I have deleted my old accounts and limit my participation. Updates about the exhibition and publication will be on this page.
THANK you to everyone who participated and those who have inquired about the next phases of the project!
The bulk of this was originally published in Canvas, Vol. 40, No.1 (Winter 2021) by the Art Libraries Society of North America, Southern California Chapter.