We Think Alone (Well, Kind Of)

We Think Alone (Well, Kind Of)

Alexandra Reyes

“If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?”

I suspect you’ve been asked this question more than once before… These days, a more relevant and interesting question might be:

“If you could read anyone’s emails or texts, whose would it be?”

Information leaks are becoming more and more common these days, from identity theft and celebrity sexts to super hackers, Facebook stalkers and Edward Snowdens—but they continue to viciously capture our attention, like this Russian tampon commercial that’s been making the Internet rounds lately: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve07uMwlNCQ.

Ok, so I might have gone a little off topic with that one. The point is: leaks can be both deadly and funny, delicious and creepy, but do they belong in the art world, a world already known for its fluidity and lack of strict regulations or boundaries? Most importantly, what can information leaks tell us about ourselves?

So seriously, whose emails would you read? How about 20 e-mails over 20 weeks from the “Sent” mail folders of:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Lena Dunham
Kirsten Dunst
Sheila Heti
Etgar Keret
Kate and Laura Mulleavy
Catherine Opie
Lee Smolin
Danh Vo

That’s what a new project called WE THINK ALONE promises to those who sign up. Once you do, you get this message:

“Here it is! That email we were just talking about. Click on the link below to confirm you’re you.”

“First subject: AN EMAIL ABOUT MONEY”

No, this is not spam or identity theft by some sketchy guy in an Internet cafe. This is Art.

“You’re all signed up! The first email will arrive in your inbox on Monday July 1.”

This is Art?! Yes, but it only physically exists in your inbox. You just went to www.wethinkalone.com and signed up to receive “a themed compendium of ten emails” every Monday from July 1 to November 11 of this year. Now, you get to read Lena Dunham’s and Kristin Dunst’s emails (emails they never knew would go public!)! It’s like being in The Bling Ring, but instead of Paris Hilton’s necklace, you could steal her thoughts, her soul, her very being!

This is WE THINK ALONE, a project that defies boundaries in more ways than one. First of all, its collaborators are a fascinating compendium of nationalities and experiences. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an NBA all-time leading scorer, writer and filmmaker; Kate and Laura Mulleavy founded designer fashion label Rodarte; Sheila Heti’s last book was “among the most-talked-about books of 2012” (Time); Catherine Opie is a photographer; Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist; Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer and filmmaker; and Danh Vo is a Danish-Vietnamese contemporary artist.

To borrow the words of Lena Dunham’s character on Girls, together, if they are not the voice than they are at least “a voice of our generation.” Curating these disparate voices normally takes the likes of Charlie Rose, but in this case, the curator is interdisciplinary artist Miranda July. WE THINK ALONE demonstrates the many shapes artworks, exhibits and creators can take in this modern world, breaking down what is usually bounded and isolated like a private email or a celebrity’s unguarded thoughts.

WE THINK ALONE was commissioned for the show On the Tip of My Tongue by Magasin 3 Stockholm Kunsthall, a privately funded exhibition venue in Stockholm. It is part of an effort to expand the exhibition space and trigger other lingering, growing existences and experiences that may be “just out of reach.”

In Miranda July’s own words, “I’m always trying to get my friends to forward me emails they’ve sent to other people — to their mom, their boyfriend, their agent — the more mundane the better. How they comport themselves in email is so intimate, almost obscene — a glimpse of them from their own point of view. WE THINK ALONE has given me the excuse to read my friends’ emails and the emails of some people I wish I was friends with and for better or worse it’s changed the way I see all of them. I think I really know them now.”

She continues, “But our inner life is not actually the same thing as our life on the computer — a quiet person might !!!! a lot. A person with a busy mind might write almost nothing. And of course while none of these emails were originally intended to be read by me (much less you*)  they were all carefully selected by their authors in response to my list of email genres — so self-portraiture is quietly at work here. Privacy, the art of it, is evolving. Radical self-exposure and classically manicured discretion can both be powerful, both be elegant. And email itself is changing, none of us use it exactly the same way we did ten years ago; in another ten years we might not use it at all.”

*All emails were written prior to the start of this project.

Official hashtag: #wethinkalone

On the Tip of My Tongue
Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
July 1, Aug 8, Sep 13

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