Dear D: The Evolution of Love Letters

(The Chinese version was published on Stand News https://thestandnews.com/art/%E8%A6%AA%E6%84%9B%E7%9A%84d-%E6%83%85%E6%9B%B8%E6%BC%94%E5%8C%96%E8%AB%96/#.XBn1XXP3OXY.facebook)

In the book Love Letters: 2000 Years of Romance, Andrea Clarke suggested “Love letters are an expression of intimacy; their words allow us insight into the private relationships of people down the ages.” Here I am, looking at the private thoughts of an anonymous admirer on a projection screen in public. However this is not just a regular love email; this is a screen-captured video showing the process of writing a love email, with the writer’s voice reading/narrating what she’s typing, making it so much different from reading a traditional letter. From her love email, I know about how the writer and the reader met, the moment when the admirer grew her affection and the complicate feelings she was having toward this unrequited love. To be more concise, this video is more like a video essay investigating contemporary love under the disguise of a fictional love email. This video is recorded entirely on the computer screen, just like the movie Searching (2018), which familiar computer interface and daily applications.

It is generally considered reading handwritten love letter provides authentic experiences and a deeper emotion connection: the texture of the paper and the unique handwritings provides clues and space for us to imagine how the writer is like, how he/she was feeling or thinking. These are all from the view of the reader. However in the work ‘Dear D’, we are looking at the writer typing the email, editing, pausing and browsing the Adobe Bridge, Youtube and Google, as if we are not just looking the process of writing but also the process of thinking. We are now in the writer’s narrative side rather than in the reader’s view. We see what the writer was inspired from, through watching the images, music, literatures articles and videos the writer opened in the computer. This is a mix tape of one’s mind.

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The British Library, Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours, 1528

Before the Internet, people did something similar in a non-digital way. Back in 1528, King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn would wrote down love notes in Book of Hours (a book that collect biblical texts, prayers and elements of the liturgy) and exchanged to each other. The King wrote the love notes on a page of a sorrow man, presenting himself as lovesick, while Anne Boleyn on the page of annunciation, implying she would give him an heir, which his wife Catherine was unable to. The illustrations in the book and the strokes of the handwritten words gave the reader more clues about the writer’s thoughts. Back to digital era we are living now, letters were replaced by emails, and emails are now being replaced by text, and text is likely to be degraded into emoji. It is just so convenient to hit the ‘sent’ button and to receive messages within a second. We sometimes encounter moments that we don’t actually know what the text ‘Hmmmm’ or the smiley face actually means when people use them to reply your questions. There are so many uncertain space that leaves no clues for one to understand the other. Internet is supposed to hold the people closer but communication fails at some point.

Dear D shows a new possibility of communication. What if the love email the writer sending is referring to the video file instead of just the email writing itself? The mind and the thoughts of the writer may present in a more completed way. The ‘love video’ may not be able to shows something authentic that a hand-written letter can, but there is something that only the digital love letter is able to show. The time spent on writing, the interruptions that perhaps change the writing content, the hesitation and the editing between lines. The handwritten letter is like a physical body with thoughts, and the digital letter is like pure thoughts. Could that be possible that the digital world/ the Internet is an evolved form of thoughts?

I can’t help related this to the theory of “noosphere” written in The Phenomenon of Man (1955) by a Jesuit priest (who also happened to be a scientist) Teilhard de Chardin. He believed that stuff contains information. Though the process of evolution, these information become more complex that in human’s case, they become consciousness. Our bodies are the containers of these information or consciousness. He suggested there is a sphere of mind called noosphere encases the biosphere, where thoughts from different individual encountered and forms a web of pure mind. Teilhard hypothesized the ongoing evolution of the human will be the mind more than the body, and eventually we will have our physical bodies abandoned and became a collective super-consciousness. Possibly we will become some sort of LCL a.k.a. orange juice in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

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Marge Monko, Dear D, 2015.

Internet has always been compared with noosphere. Sometimes we text faster than we think because we think through texting. Sometimes we are like thee writer in Dear D that our thinking is interrupted by other information on the Internet. It is like our thinking process is not just in our brains but also connects with the Internet. Internet becomes part of our thinking organ. In the latter part of Dear D, the writer reference to sociologist Eva Illouz that “Internet is shaping our imagination with purely cognitive and linguistic content whereas traditional romantic imagination was characterized by a mix of reality and imagination based on the body.” The writer than said longing in love letters is mainly by the distance between individual physically; the intention behind Internet romances is to shape and control the self-image. Love letters have always been a form of fantasy, representing a better-articulated and sensitive self. We are shaping a fictional and ideal self on the Internet. On the Internet, we become an idea, a consciousness that escaped from our physical bodies. Early when the writer talked about gestures of people (like touching hair or moving eyebrows) can draw us to someone and feeds our imagination, she opened the image of a man’s face, using the magnifying tool to zoom in his hair and his eyes, sliding the image as if she’s touching him physically. The body was not existed and the imaging is happening. I am confused whether contemporary love is evolved in a better way or not, as our minds come closer but the material form of humanity disappeared.

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Crush, Parasite, 2018

Crush

SEP 15 – NOV 25, 2018

http://para-site.org.hk/en/exhibitions/crush

References:

  1. Macdonald, F. (2016) ‘What History’s Love Letters Reveals’. BBC, 30 Nov. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20161130-a-history-of-britain-through-heartbreak-and-lust (Accessed: 2 Dec 2018).
  2. Matrix Masters (2003) Chapter 2: The Internet and the Noosphere. Available at: https://www.matrixmasters.com/spirit/html/2a/2a.html (Accessed: 4 Dec 2018).
  3. Monko, M. (2015) Dear D. Available at: https://vimeo.com/134967812 (Accessed: 4 Dec 2018).
  4. The British Library (2009) Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours. Available at: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/henryviii/greatmatter/annebol/ (Accessed: 4 Dec 2018).

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