Between 15 February 2009 and 16 April 2010, the email addresses at Axis Design, Manchester, received 50 unsolicited messages offering the reader a range of relationships with women. [SG]
What do you do with your junk mail? At Axis Design, Alan collected them as they landed in his email in box, and then became fascinated by the messages and the photographs that were attached to these emails. This book represents that year long collecting process.
“I love animals. Especially I love cats and dogs. I have three dogs which live on my summer residence. In cold time they live at my place. You love cats? Right now on my knees I sits Cat Tomis also helps me to write you the letter:))”Read more
Foreword by artist and curator Simon Grennan.
Please reply only to my personal email…
Between 15 February 2009 and 15 May 2010, the email addresses at Axis Design, Manchester, received fifty unsolicited messages offering a reader a range of relationships with women. The messages, collected in this book, are written in the first person. The majority of them also have an attached picture of a woman, prompting the idea that this is a picture of the writer.
These are complex messages, which reveal a system of relationships between real people who have never met, utilising the structure of remote communications to create and accumulate fictional characters in a speculative story, for purposes unknown.
The form of these messages, heir in part to the pimp’s cards in public telephone boxes of a pre-digital past and in part to lonely hearts ads, itself frames and manipulates the relationships between the people involved in producing, consuming and acting upon them. The reader and the originator of the message are mutually unknown, represented solely by email addresses. However, the content of the messages – which are all written in the first person – genders them. The writer in each case is ostensibly a woman, directly addressing an unknown man in order to gain his attention. At the same time, a reader can never be sure that the writer is who she says she is, attached picture notwithstanding, because all that is known is an email address. Similarly, the reader might not be the ideal man required in the salutation.
This combination of revealed and un-revealed is the form of a snare. The unknown reader may or may not be a man, who may or may not pay attention to the unsolicited message. Explicitly offering one type of relationship in the content of the message, the sender knows that a number of possible other relationships are spontaneously created as each reader opens their email. These relationships are not the putative romance, personal commitment and passion offered by the text, but real relationships between people with no other knowledge of each other. What is explicitly offered may or may not be true and the person or people behind the offer might be absolutely not the person of the text. There is no way of knowing except by further communication: an email reply from the reader.
The snare in these messages requires a reply for the motives behind the messages to become clear. Only then do the roles framed by them edge further towards reality. What type of man replies to messages like these, received in this way? The answer is the unknown man for whom the message is framed in the first place, so that, as much as presenting a certain type of woman as the writer, the message requires a certain type of man as the reader. In fact, it doesn’t take a very close reading of many of these messages for the character of that ideal male reader to emerge.
The messages all appear to be from women of eastern European or Russian origin, although location and nationality are only rarely stated. In more or less accomplished English, they describe themselves as beautiful, clever and romantic women seeking a committed personal relationship with a truthful, faithful and kind man. The trope of a young woman requiring rescue by an unknown man, consciously framed by the economic disparity between western and eastern Europe, is one both currently familiar in the media and more deeply rooted in a history of interpersonal relationships between people from east and west. Further, the identification of specific qualities in writer and reader (beautiful, clever and romantic women, trustworthy and kind men) highlights the character of the ideal male reader as a catalogue of vulnerabilities and self-delusions. The ideal men, who reply to messages structured in this way, are men who think that they are not desirable for their personalities, looks, youth or abilities. The writers do not ask for handsome, successful or young men, only men who are faithful and kind. The obvious questions begged by the core narrative of these messages are not questions that would be asked by anyone likely to reply.
If these messages are indeed snares for personally vulnerable, western European men, what chain of events unfolds if they reply? Alan Ward of Axis Design contacted several internet service providers with this question and their responses illuminate the real possible relationships that these messages set up. Although they could not absolutely rule out the possibility that the writers of these messages are the people they say they are, the ISPs replied that in their experience of a huge volume of traffic of messages like these, the writers of these messages are very simply motivated by the desire to establish that an email address is live, opening a small door to a much larger world of digital and personal shenanigans, with dubious, fraudulent or criminal aims. The reason that the messages are framed as appeals from women to vulnerable western men lies in the fact that the actual writers understand that these types of men are most likely to respond.
What then, of the women whose pictures are attached to these fictions? They are certainly not fictions themselves, although their relationship to the texts written to accompany them is entirely unknown. Although these pictures remain aspects of the fictional narrative of possible romances, they are much more compelling and mysterious. In a number of cases, the women in the pictures might plausibly be the same person, slightly differently dressed at a different time and place. Sometimes, the pictures appear to have been taken spontaneously, the women at leisure, as though from a personal or family album. Sometimes they appear posed, dressed up, self-consciously adopting the visual language of female allure. These variations never override the functional aspect of the picture in the narrative of these messages. It is as though, given the wide range of possible tastes that might be ascribed to the message’s ideal male reader, the implication is ‘take your choice’. Perhaps the pictures are chosen, bought or stolen only in as much as they are available, anonymous and conform to an image of the required type. We cannot know if the person in the picture is the actual writer, the scammer or phisher, or if they have any relationship with the people and motives behind the stories. There is only one sure way to find out.
Simon Grennan is part of artists’ team Grennan & Sperandio
“Her name is Lyudmila. She is 35 years old. She has no pernicious habits. She does not drink and smoke. She likes to go in for sports and has many other hobbies about which she will tell to you later.”
“This is not spam or other bad things. So, please, answer to me!!!”
“I search for that person who rescue me from solitude. I feel myself solitary in this enormous, false and cruel world.It is so awfully.”
Strictly limited edition of 48 copies
246mm x 195mm portrait
Priced £60.00 including p&p