The workers of today work in offices, in HR, in word processed jobs. We sit here, in our very own make-shift bureaucracy. One of us takes an envelope, the times new roman ‘YOU’ already printed onto it, and uses it to make sure that the letter they are currently folding into thirds will fit inside it. They then pass it on to the next person who slips it inside the envelope, running their fingers across the fold to make sure its compact enough, before passing it on to the next person who licks the envelope and seals the letter inside. The envelope then makes it into the hands of a person armed with a roll of double sided stick tape who cuts off a strip and firmly applies it to the back of the letter. This is then placed on a pile ready for the whole cycle to start again. When they have made enough for one batch, twenty or so, they pass them onto to post man who puts them in their bag, ready for distribution.
My tongues dry as I look down our Fordist (re)production line and I smell the dry musk of another manila envelope as I bring it to my lips. We pass the time, as workers do, drifting between playful chatter, serious talk and stubborn silences.
Left hand accepts, task is carried out, right hand passes the product on.
I watch my machine working, as each body completes its task before handing it over to the next stage. This is what managers must feel like, watching the cams bob up and down in front of them. I contemplate perhaps running a performance just of this, my own little factory operating for hours as people come and go. These workers, of course, are not being paid, they do not want or expect to be paid. Perhaps they don’t realise that they are working.
The letters addressed to you have a hidden meaning perhaps note realised by the (un)fortunate member of the public who finds them. The work re-appropriates the very behaviours and actions our lives have bread into us; how to be a good office worker. We have hijacked the envelopes, the printers, the paper and the methods of our prospective employment because, in some ways, it’s all we know how to do.
In the age where the only letters we get are from employers or banks (we were raised on SMS and the internet has pretty much voided the use of paper communication) we have even stolen their TNR font from them.
We are reclaiming material communication. Just as Zines did in the past.
The letters resemble a form of spam, or junk mail. They are blatantly copies, with rhetoric clearly designed to apply to everyone (and attempts to illustrate the abstract nature of language, freeing words from things (you are not you, you are a me, and I am a me and a you)) This is only a borrowed form though, like the envelope carrying the letters, they are merely a disposable vessel (decaying on a wall in Liverpool). Though the words apply to everyone they create an abstract space for the reader to explore.
The aesthetics of bureaucracy serve as a Trojan horse into the audience but also disrupt the normal flow of events. They are out of place, stuck to walls in a city, they occur as random events in an open world videogame as audience is connected to audience through social media. Reminding the finder that there are, in fact, people in the city, human beings who want to reach out and, importantly, want to play. The city around us is not out of our hands, we can change it, leave things behind, stick things to walls, write on pieces of paper, shout things in the street. The city can be a playground.