This morning we received some mail art from Arenda’s brother Terry, as part of a class project he has to do. The idea is, he makes some sort of artistic design on the envelope, mails it somewhere far away, the recipients add some of their own art to the envelope, and they mail it back. We thought it was pretty neat that he picked us. He had told us a few days ago that this would be coming in the mail, so we’d been waiting expectantly. Here it is:
Initially, we weren’t sure what to make of the art.
“Let’s open it up!” I said. Sure enough, there was a letter inside. Arenda, James, and I gathered round and she read it aloud. We got excited at the part where he wrote, “if you’re confused as to what I put on the front of the envelope,” but our hearts fell when he continued, “it’s completely random.”
“Well that’s no fun!” said Arenda, disappointed. But I looked at the envelope more closely, before saying with excitement, “Arenda! It’s not random at all! In fact, there’s a lot of really important stuff right here. It’ll be worth our time to analyze it.”
The three of us sat down for lunch.
“Payoueeyou,” said James.
“Now, James,” I admonished, “Uncle Terry didn’t send this all the way from B.C. so you could go and make snap judgments. The design does not imply that existence precedes essence. I can spot the holes in your analysis from a mile away. You have to prepare your arguments better, ok? What do you say?”
“Big boy. So in the top left there, those look like symbols from a calculator, don’t they?”
“They do,” Arenda replied. “And that thing in the middle looks like a chairlift support. But what’s that brown strip at the bottom? It looks like something from an envelope.”
There was writing on the strip, and looking closely I noticed that it said, “Seam Line.”
“No, I think it’s a strip from a sewing template,” I ventured.
“Hmm. Yeah, I can see that,” she agreed.
“I think I know what’s going on here,” I said. “We’ve got the calculator symbols and the chairlift representing technology. That map fragment there that says ‘Ontario,’ shows a rural region in the province. So that, plus the sewing template at the bottom, represent a more homespun, back-to-the-land sort of idea. What Terry’s expressing here is the conflict between industrial man and agrarian man, the rhythms of the city versus the rhythms of the land.”
“You’re right!” Arenda replied. “But what’s he saying about it? I mean, it’s one thing to say that there is a conflict, but there’s got to be something more here.”
“Brrrmmm!” said James.
“Oh, James!” laughed Arenda.
“Wait!” I said. “I think he’s on to something! Excluding the globe on the bottom right, what do the items as a whole look like? They look like the front of a ship, with the sewing template as the hull, and the calculator symbols as windows!”
“They totally do,” Arenda affirmed. “And the ship is heading towards the world.”
“Perhaps Terry’s saying that this conflict between technology and nature is ‘sailing’ us towards a better world,” I suggested.
“No, I don’t think that’s it at all,” said Arenda. “Look at the size of the ship compared to the globe. That huge ship is bearing down on this fragile and helpless world.”
“So this conflict will destroy us all, then.”
“I think that’s what Terry wants to say,” Arenda replied.
We’re pretty sure that you rolled your eyes at all this, Terry. But we wish you the best on your project, and we hope you like what we add!