With Valentine’s Day almost on us and heart balloons in every window, love is on our minds.
To explore a different perspective on that mysterious feeling, Auckland Libraries and interactive artist Kiran Patel are running a Valentine's exhibition Love Letters Never Sent displaying unsent love letters submitted by the Auckland public.
The exhibition is running at Central City Library until Monday 19 February.
We sit down and chat to Kiran about the exhibition and inspiration behind the project.
Tell us about how you came up with the idea?
I’ve been playing around with the idea for a while – when thinking about love I wanted to move away from the usual narrative of roses and chocolates and look at something rawer and more authentic. I also wanted to look at love in different forms, not just romantic – love for family, friends, even strangers.
About six months ago I was going through a situation where I held back on what I wanted to say. That got me thinking about all the things we feel but never voice – what would it look like if we let those feelings out? The exhibition grew from that question and Valentine's Day seemed the perfect time to try and answer it!
What would you love for people to get out of the exhibition?
There’s a beauty in getting lost in other’s experiences. The project is about provoking conversation and community creating art not just one person. (I haven’t actually written a letter myself yet!)
So my wish would be that whether people read two, four or twenty letters they’ll be moved – to anger, joy, compassion, whatever comes. I love the idea of someone reading a letter and realising – hey, my feelings are ok; someone else has experienced the same thing.
I hope people can connect and embrace the emotions we normally shy away from.
What can Aucklanders expect when they visit the exhibition?
People have been submitting the letters anonymously since the beginning of the month and no two letters are the same. (Which has made displaying the letters a challenge to be honest!)
As the idea was to give a platform to others’ reflections, I didn’t want to manipulate the letters too much, but the exhibition set up does give people privacy to have their own experience.
The letters themselves can get pretty emotional and provoking. Which I guess isn’t that surprising when you think about what I’ve asked of people! We’re going into a place they wouldn’t normally, expressing something they wouldn’t generally express, visiting a dark corner of their mind or memory. So there’s stuff that definitely hits close to home.
Why did you choose Auckland Libraries to host the exhibition?
The library is an amazing space to get imaginative and share ideas. I've worked with Central City Library on community projects before, such as the #Happy campaign, so it was great to connect again.
Especial shout out to Sean Taylor the Activation Librarian for all his support with this exhibition and his passion for the library’s potential as a community place.
It’s awesome that the library isn’t just a space for book knowledge but experience as well, somewhere for people to exchange ideas, experiments and creativity.
Visit the exhibition
Head along to the ground floor of Auckland Central City Library to check out Love Letters Never Sent before Monday 19 February.