Often emerging from observation of everyday experience and interactions, Lee Mingwei’s participatory projects explore notions of memory, self-reflection and interpersonal relations. The Letter Writing Project, conceived after the passing of his maternal grandmother, grew out of Lee’s experience of loss and the realisation that he still had many things to say to her after her passing. Over the next year and a half, he wrote many letters to his grandmother to share his thoughts and feelings.
For SB14, Lee provides three booths, each with a desk and writing materials, for visitors to compose letters to a deceased or absent loved one in order to convey previously unexpressed gratitude, forgiveness or apology. The letters may be either sealed and addressed (for posting by Sharjah Art Foundation) or unsealed and placed in one of many holders for future visitors to read. Through acts of writing and reading, visitors will come to realise that others too harbour thoughts they are relieved to share, creating a chain of feeling that opens into a collective world of emotion. Building on previous iterations in Australia, Germany, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, UK and US, this project takes place for the first time in the Middle East and draws on the multiple languages of the region, including Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Tagalog and Malayalam. Participants may write their letters in the language of their choosing, continuing a journey of human catharsis and critical reflection that crisscrosses the globe.