Do you have a burning criticism or commendation that you'd like to get off your chest but feel too shy to let others know? Or perhaps you're not shy at all, but you want your opinion to pack a little more visual punch? Or maybe you just don't know how, exactly, to get the attention of your intended recipient amongst all the other clutter that gets sent their way...
This is where Anonymous Postcard, a website founded by artist Tucker Nichols and art historian Dakin Hart, comes in. Anonymous Postcard offers a tongue-in-cheek civil service: visitors are invited to submit whatever praise or grievance they have, which Nichols illustrates by creating an original work of art (i.e., postcard) and which he then sends, via the United States Postal Service, to the appropriate party.
It's not an easy thing to illustrate a complaint (or compliment), but Nichols, a recent artist-in-residence at the de Young whose drawings have appeared in McSweeney's, the New York Times, and in the pages of a collaboration with U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, is the man for the job. His aesthetic is minimal, colorful and playful. The materials he chooses for the postcards are usually scraps of paper and packaging reborn into a new existence. It's a blend reminiscent of kindergarten, ReadyMade chic, and Chinese painting: fun to look at, easy on the eco-conscience, and intelligent.
You can sign up to receive an email notification every time a new postcard is sent, and they're usually hilarious. In the last few weeks, Nichols has sent both a five dollar bill and its lonely outline to Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve, as well as a card to Illinois Governor Blagojevich based on the statement, "The corruption is one thing, but the hair is unforgivable."
The claims aren't printed on the postcards, but Anonymous Postcard's url is, so those who receive a claim have the option of checking the website, where images of the postcards and the text of the original claim have been posted. They're also invited to submit responses, although so far I haven't seen anything from Bernanke.
Usually, everyone involved in a mail art community is part of a physical network, individually and collectively testing the limits of the postal system with their personalized envelopes, postcards and letters. Anonymous Postcard has managed to blend the best of 20th and 21st century mail networks by creating a community that revolves around tactile, unique objects, while still offering the mass availability and instantaneity of the internet. Best of all, you never know what kind of irregular shape, size, or color of envelope might be lying in the dark of your inbox.