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April 20 2014

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You’ve Got Mail From Miranda July

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Miranda JulyWriter, filmmaker, and performance artist Miranda July has never shied away from inviting the public into her world. Childhood injuries, sexual proclivities, insecurities about aging—no detail or eccentricity is off limits. Oftentimes, July encourages the audience to take part in the (over?)-exposure. For instance, her seven-year Web project, “Learning to Love You More,” culminated with more than 8,000 people submitting responses to online assignments like: “Take a picture of your parents kissing.”

In fact, much of July’s work hinges on interrogating the outer limits of breaking down the boundaries between “me” and “you,” and what it means to be close to someone in the Internet era. Her latest work, “We Think Alone,” adds a new angle to the intimacy project. Here, she invites such friends as Lena Dunham and Sheila Heti, as well as newfound acquaintances Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Lee Smolin, among others, to contribute a series of their personal e-mails to be read—without context—by whoever would like to receive them each week.

“I made a list of 20 different kinds of e-mails— an e-mail about money, an angry e-mail, one to your mom. Then I sent the list to 10 different notable people whom I admire,” explained July of her process. “I was quite nervous—just asking people to do it seemed sort of presumptuous—but the first person to send hers to me, the artist Catherine Opie, sent all 20 at once and filled me with confidence. It was a lot more nuanced than I had imagined.”

For those who subscribe to the project, the e-mails will arrive in batches of 10 every Monday for 20 weeks starting July 1. Each week represents a new theme—or a “little anthology,” as July said. Some e-mails are incredibly open (“Lena Dunham’s, obviously,” and the artist Danh Vo’s), while others are purposefully guarded (“It’s not going to do Kirsten Dunst any good if people know who she really is,” explained July. “She needs to be able to disappear into her world—and that used to be how all actors were.”)—it’s all part of the mystique.

“We met Miranda when we first started designing and have been friends ever since. She’s an incredible artist,” offered Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy, who are contributing to the project. “Through her lens, one gains insight into the complex human experience and spirit.”

Dunham concurs: “I would follow Miranda into a fire, so I would have done this whether it was a good idea or not,” she said. “But this happens to be a really good idea. We explain ourselves fully in almost every e-mail. It’s human instinct to be heard, to force others to fully understand your gist.”

“We Think Alone” was commissioned by Magasin 3 Stockholm Kunsthall for the exhibition On the Tip of My Tongue. Participants will receive e-mails every Monday, from July 1 to November 11, 2013. To sign up, visit wethinkalone.com.

Photo:Courtesy of Miranda July

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