URGENT 2ND CLASS: Creating Faux Mail, Dubious Documents, and Other Art from Ephemera

Article excerpt

"Yet for better or for worse we love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and weather, and we love the colors and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them."

Jun'icheroTanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, 1977

Imagine a young woman sitting in the accounts payable department of an Italian trading office in 1910.The afternoon is dragging interminably. She drifts into a reverie and starts to doodle on the invoice in front of her. Like many educated people of the time, she can draw with reasonable competence. She sketches the faces of her coworkers as she remembers them at the recent New Year's fancy-dress party. The result of this graphic detour is a fascinating mixture of period commerce and art. Is it important that she never actually put pencil to paper and that it is you or I who decides to act out her part for her? Is the invoice worth less because we have created a fiction over a fact? Surely what matters is the degree of poignant emotion evoked by the resultant piece of paper. I love the idea of a creativity that honors the effects of time and makes mischief with history. Crowing up in a society where hard, cold, and shiny are often highly valued, I find myself gravitating toward the opposite. Snow-blinded by bleached white paper, I crave smoky patina and shadowy aged surfaces.

The concept of order and chaos overlapping one another intrigues me. Whether it be vine-engulfed ruins or a new edifice emerging out of the jungle, there is something stimulating about the codependence of the contrived and the organic. …