Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Toronto Wrap-up

Hi all,

I guess I could have used a few more days in Toronto. Voices at Hand wrapped at the end of October and I’m told people stopped in at SOHO Art and Custom Framing, expecting to find me reading in the window, well over a week later.

By all accounts, it was a successful, albeit grueling, run of Voices. (Next time I’ll allow myself a day off!) I read and sorted 724 new letters, with the weekly average on par with the Peterborough run. I didn’t track the number of daily visitors, but I can report that the numbers were steady Mondays to Fridays, with predictable spikes on weekends, especially the day I was visited by twenty aspiring actors.

The type of visitor was anything but predictable. Not that I kept stats on that either, but I found my visitors very candid when asked to choose a category for a reading—often revealing their interests, occupations and even their moods before making a selection.

On one occasion, a man volunteered, that as he was a Counsellor at nearby St Joseph’s Health Centre, a sampling of letters from Counsel would be appropriate. Another day, a historian expressed her delight at being able to choose from History. And more than once, after I’d explained the categories, a visitor would confess “I need a pick-me up,” or “I could use a boost...give me something from Firm Ground.”

I certainly appreciated the way their candour enabled me to speak to individual interests and the natural way “performance” then evolved into conversation.

Some other observations were: Young girls gravitated to readings from Stay This Happy; Best Friends Forever; Text Messaging; In confidence and Love. Actually, everyone liked Love! Not many could resist The Juicy News or the guilty pleasure of Shaky Ground, and once thoroughly shaken, visitors often requested readings from Firm Ground or from Hope. 

Some days I’d push a category. Readings from The Small News allowed me to share some really solid writing while The Big News provided a wide range of stories that if headlines, might read: Pre-Schooler Reports She Knows Her ABC’s; Woman Becomes Grandmother While Watching Marilyn Bell’s Swim or FLQ Kidnaps Cross During  Teen’s Class Trip.

I’m now up to 41 categories with the total number of letters in the installation numbering close to 2500 and two of my most recent submissions falling at opposite ends of the project’s ever-expanding timeline.

The letters found in Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda—letters that were never sent—were written expressly for the project which makes them the newest correspondence in the collection. Whereas, those found in Flourishing Under the Circumstances—correspondence shared between five brothers in various parts of 19th century Canada and their aunt back home in Sussex—were written in between1889 and 1894. They aren’t the oldest letters in the collection, but they are originals and they are exquisite. All fifteen of them! 

You can see these and more by scrolling down or wait for the next incarnation of the project. By then I should have received some of the letters that didn’t quite make it to SOHO: Letters written in hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland; letters home from an Israeli soldier during five wars and 30 years of pen pal correspondence on its way from Puerto Rico.

Many thanks to SOHO Art and Custom Framing for hosting this chapter of the project and to CANADA POST for their sponsorship of Voices at Hand. 

And my deepest appreciation to all of you who donated letters or visited me in the window.

One friend encouraged me to explore the idea of a bookish type object or something to hang onto so that she wouldn’t have to chase me “from town to town like the Grateful Dead.” I don’t know what the “end result” of Voices at Hand will be yet, or when and where it will next be mounted, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

All the best,


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