Air mail

Postal art with Professor Andrew Barry. Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL, May 2021.

Air mail is an example of art created during the pandemic. Sabin designed a series of nine postcards featuring found or fabricated objects. Each photographed object relates to the theme of air and atmospheres. The idea was to spark the kind of thoughtful and poetic conversation that can only happen via post, at a time when many aspects of ‘normal’ life were up in the air.

April 7, 2021

Lucy Sabin wrote a letter to Andrew Barry on a vacuum cleaner bag. It was sent from Brighton to Cambridge. The letter set off a chain reaction. It announced a theme and some logistics. There was an enclosed postcard with a return address so that Barry could share his initial thoughts.

April 20, 2021

Barry received some mishappen vacuum cleaner bags in the post, containing objects and corresponding postcards with return postage. Over the following days, Barry wrote a response to each object on its corresponding postcard which he sent back to Lucy in Brighton.

The objects encapsulated the artist’s experiences of atmospheres and breathing. There was a balloon filled with Sabin’s breath, a vial of household dust, a mass-produced handheld fan, ‘clouds’ made from cotton wool, specimens of moss and lichen, a ‘sample’ of the sea breeze (sediment and seawater in a perfume bottle), and a protective face mask.

May 5, 2021

Sabin and Barry gave a virtual presentation about the project as part of the Alternative Epistemologies Festival hosted by the Institute of Advanced Studies at UCL. During the talk, the collaborators spoke about their respective accounts of sending and receiving materials that relate to the theme of ‘in the air’.

Project presentation at Alternative Epistemologies Festival, Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL. May 2021.

Dear Lucy, This mask makes me think of environmental justice, social inequalities, the health service, collective responsibility, and a recognition of what Achille Mbembe has called the universal right to breath. The air has changed. Best, Andrew.

3 May 2021, Cambridge