Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): The Book

Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) started as a one-night-only performance at the Transmodern Festival. Then it became a blog. After a while, I started calling it a side project or an art project or a collaborative art project. Lately, I've just been saying that it is one of the things I do--write life stories on postcards. And now it is also going to be a book, a selection to be published by the wonderful people at Mud Luscious. The publication date is a ways off, 2013, but that'll give me time to finally catch up with the waiting list.
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A Few Notes on the Project

I wrote Rob Brulinski's postcard at the Transmodern Festival and it was toward the end of that first night of writing postcards and I was feeling a little zombie-ish by that point, which Rob talks about at Boy Being Buried Alive. His life story was one of the stories that really stuck with me and one of the reasons this turned into a bigger project. So I was happy and surprised to see Rob walking down the sidewalk with his twin brother, Kenny at Honfest, and glad that he shared his life story with me too. I did my best to honor their individual details.

And here's a polaroid that Rob shot while I was writing the life stories at Honfest. You can see more of them at Boy Being Buried Alive.

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Public/Private

Not all of the postcard life stories will be made public. If a person doesn't want their life story to be made public, then I will simply send them the postcard and it will be just for them. I'm saying this, in part, just to make it explicit. The other part is that I want there to be some chronology to the project, so I'm going to number the life stories. The first 23 I wrote were at the Transmodern in Baltimore and most of these are with their people. I simply gave each person their postcard and they walked away with it. At the time, I had no thought to make this a bigger project and didn't attempt to document it in any way. Now I have the text for a few of these life stories, though, mostly through the miracles of social networking. Of course, if Billie, Elaine, Max, C., Devon, Lisa, Jennifer, Elisabeth, Moira, Cooper, Karim, Sara, Jonathon, Rob, Maura, Will, Thomas, Russell, Michael, a second Sara, or Abbey still have their postcard life story and want to be included in the public part of the project, then please get back in touch.
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The Beginning of Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard)

My friend Adam Robinson was curating an art festival in Baltimore and he asked me if I wanted to participate. I had never done anything like that, but I told him that I could write people’s life stories. I thought it would be fun and funny and that I would write on the backs of a few postcards and that would be it.

The first postcard I wrote was for Bart O’Reilly, a painter, who quit art school in Dublin to work as an ice cream man in Ocean City, which is how he met the woman who became his wife (see Bart’s life story posted here). When I finished the postcard and looked up, a line had formed. For the rest of the night, I interviewed dozens of people and wrote each person’s life story on the back of the postcard. I did this for four hours straight without getting up out of the chair that I was sitting in. I was completely exhausted by the end. My mind was racing with the details of people’s lives and the hope that I had done their various stories justice in the space of a postcard.

I was astounded by what people told me, the secrets and the difficulties, the pain and wonder and hope that they revealed. People told me about being in jail, about not being able to have children (and only wanting children because of the infertility), about having too many boyfriends, about computer hacking, about keeping it a secret that they like doing homework, about meeting their future wife while working abroad selling ice cream at a seaside boardwalk, about moving to a city because they liked a particular diner, about leaving their birth country when they were 5 years old and continuing to try to escape wherever they lived, about saying their favorite color is green even though it isn’t, and about feeling responsible for their adopted brother being institutionalized.

That’s how this started. If you would like me to write your life story (on a postcard)—and trust me, I want to—please get in touch. Tell me your name, age, where you were born, where you have lived, what you do (jobs and hobbies) or what you study (if in school) or what you want to do with your life. Tell me about any important events in your life, any life changing decisions, any strange things that have happened to you, anything that makes you particularly you. I will follow up with questions, then write up your life story, and mail you the postcard. You will be able to put it up on your refrigerator with a magnet if you want.

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