7,305 letters

On April 2 of this year, I will have been writing a letter every day for twenty years. I write by hand on a piece of paper, or on an exhibition entry, or on a drawing of my son. Every day I write one letter, I put it in an envelope, I close the envelope, I stick a stamp on it and send it to the same address.

For twenty years my letters have reached the same address in Rotterdam and from there a friend of mine, Margot, has also written one every day, to send it to me. This means that, for now, I have almost 7,300 letters from her (in shoe boxes, one for each year) and on April 2 of this year we will both write the letter number 7,306. And the next day I will write the one that makes 7,307 and everything will continue, I suppose, until one of the two is gone. Because after twenty years doing the same thing every day, it would be very strange to stop doing it.

Sometimes we joke about what the postmen who have delivered our letters will think of us all these years. Those who deliver only see how the letters arrive at my house, or hers, but they probably do not know that letters also come out from the same address. In the post office here, as I live in a relatively small town, perhaps there are more chances that someone who works there has noticed that letters both arrive and leave from my address. I guess nobody in Rotterdam has noticed.

Perhaps the question that I have been asked the most when I explain this little project is: why? Why do we do it? And perhaps that is the hardest thing to answer. Now we do it because we always have. But, when we started, why did we do it when we started?

Well, it all started with another project of mine, a very different one. For a time, around the year 2000, I was asking anyone who I came across to send me a letter that I would never open. It was a way of questioning the communicative fact (if you are never going to read it, neither you nor anyone else, why am I going to write it?). And, on the other hand, to question trust (do you really believe that I will never open it?).

Then, when I asked Margot to write a letter for this project, I had only just met her. And she made me a counterproposal: this letter you asked for, I will write it to you, of course, but also, I want to write you a letter that you will open, and I want to write you one every day, and I would like for you to do it too. And I said yes. What else could I have said?