The Letter Writing Project is the result of a collaborative effort on behalf of the artist Lee Mingwei and the Whitney Museum to bring the artist’s intentions into formal manifestation. The project was awarded Design Distinction in the Environments category in ID magazine’s annual design review.
Lee Mingwei’s performative artworks are rooted in basic, ephemeral everyday acts. In this case, the act of letter writing is brought to spatial realization in a temporary environmental installation.
The Letter Writing Project is an interactive installation that encourages participants to take a private moment and write letters that they always wanted to write but never did. Letters are written to friends, loved ones, or even the deceased. This installation creates a space conducive to performing this private act in a public space. The letter writing stations transform an otherwise frenetic urban environment into a contemplative sanctuary.
The letter writing stations are positioned in the subdued light of the museum gallery. Visitors are drawn to the lantern-like illuminated writing stations with the silhouettes of previously written letters and perhaps someone writing a letter within the translucent glass walls. Inside each station is a table with writing paper, envelopes and a pen. There are three booths, each with a table at different heights accommodating standing, sitting or kneeling postures. These correspond to the three meditative positions of Ch’an Buddhism and to the sentiments of gratitude, insight and forgiveness. Letters are placed in holders on the translucent walls and are displayed for visitors to read. They accumulate and are mailed regularly by the artist.
Letters are placed in holders on the translucent walls and are displayed for visitors to read. They accumulate and are mailed regularly by the artist.
In scale, proportion, material, illumination, texture and tactility this environment creates a psychological space that allows for the writing of intimate thoughts. The Letter Writing stations create a therapeutic space in which the Buddhist technique of transforming normal daily acts to the level of ritual is achieved.
The Letter Writing Project has been installed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, The Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia, The Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and in another incarnation at the Venice Biennale.
The furnishings are cut from multi layered plywood with exposed edges revealing the construction.