Art School(ed): We Think Alone

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Art School(ed) is a column about all things arty (e.g., exhibits, printmakers, gouache, the Rhode Island School of Design, zines, Van Gogh, that Circle Dance sculpture made out of impenetrable tinfoil, contemporary photography, Woody Allen, etc.) penned by a real, live RISD student. 

Since July 1st, I have been receiving weekly e-mails from Lena Dunham and Kirsten Dunst. The ladies of Rodarte drop me a line every Monday as well. And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar… that guy just won’t leave me alone!

Unfortunately, these e-mails are not actually personalized for me. They are a part of Miranda July’s newest art project, where she implements e-mail as her medium of choice. July considers herself a filmmaker, an artist, and a writer. Her previous work appears in this litany of impressiveness: the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, two Whitney biennials, the Venice Biennale, The Paris Review, Harper’s, The New Yorker, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival. Swoon.

July’s e-mail project, entitled We Think Alone, compiles personal e-mails penned by people in the public eye. Each week, this collection of e-mails is curated according to a theme. Past themes include: an e-mail that mentions Barack Obama, a business e-mail, an e-mail to your mom, an e-mail that includes a dream you had, an e-mail with art in it, an e-mail about what you’re working on, an e-mail you decided not to send, an e-mail that includes a photo of yourself, and an e-mail with the phrase ‘I love you’ in it.

We Think Alone’s weekly e-mail assemblage boasts a roster of fascinating participants:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the NBA’s all-time leading scorer/tallest person on this list)
  • Lena Dunham (an American filmmaker/writer/actress/all around legend/great over-sharer of our time)
  • Kirsten Dunst (an American actress)
  • Sheila Heti (a Canadian writer)
  • Etgar Keret (an Israeli writer/filmmaker)
  • Kate and Laura Mulleavy (the fashionista sisters who founded Rodarte)
  • Catherine Opie (an American photographer)
  • Lee Smolin (a Canadian-American theoretical physicist)
  • Danh Vo (a Danish-Vietnamese contemporary artist)

A contemporary artist herself, July acknowledges that this project reflects our culture in a myriad of ways. We Think Alone explores the way our computer personalities differ from our personalities in reality. As July says, “a quiet person might !!!! a lot. A person with a busy mind might write almost nothing.” She says that self-portraiture is at play here: each participant had to select the collection of e-mails they would share with the greater Internet public, and these collections reveal the motives they had in mind, i.e., whether they wanted to express themselves artistically through these e-mails or remain private and elusive. July’s project questions the role of e-mail in our society, how it has changed since e-mail’s genesis, and how our relationship to e-mail will change in the future.

Alas, contemporary art that has no price tag, and comes neatly packaged to fit inside your inbox. Get your @brown.edu address involved. Hop on the bandwagon if you want to discover that all Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wants for his birthday are the annotated Sherlock Holmes novels, or if you want to get teary-eyed in Leung reading a heartfelt apology Lena Dunham sent to her mom. We Think Alone continues sprucing up your inbox until November 11, 2013. I’m hoping next week’s theme is an e-mail that includes emojis.

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