By Claire Mathieson
The new millennium has seen a revolution in communication, with rapid-fire text messages sweeping the planet and sites like Facebook and Twitter allowing us to establish contact with friends and celebrities alike. But have our interactions lost something, become less personal? Have we grown too accustomed to whittling our lives into blurbs of 140 characters or less?
In August 2000, 100 blank journals were released in San Francisco. Graphic designer Someguy passed them off to friends and abandoned them in bars, cafés, and on park benches. Strangers began contacting him, asking if they could participate, and the project grew. There are now 1,000 journals circulating the globe, some handed from friend to friend, others left in magazine racks or tucked into seatback pockets, waiting to be found, read, and filled. Someguy got the idea for the traveling journals while compiling a book of pictures showing writings people had scrawled in bathrooms and other public places, which had long fascinated him. The journals are meant to be an outlet for people to unleash their creativity and to share it with others in a way that is both anonymous and unifying.
The project has been extremely popular and now boasts a book, 1000 Journals Project, and a documentary film, 1000 Journals (2007). Between November 2008 and April 2009, completed journals were featured in an interactive exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), which provided journals and art supplies for museumgoers. Although the project’s website claims that you’re more likely to win the lottery than to find yourself in possession of one of the journals, a sister project dubbed 1001 Journals has been created and allows people to sign up to receive an existing journal or to put their own journals into circulation. It also lists the locations of journals that live in particular public places such as cafés and bookstores and which are open to anyone who visits.
One journal at a time, the project has established an international dialog of creativity. The journals skip with color and keep up a multilingual murmur. They’re festooned with duct tape and fortune cookie slips, personal photos and cuttings from magazines. Many of the journals are tracked as they transfer from person to person, and scans are uploaded onto the website. Others’ whereabouts are unknown, such as journals 114 and 194, which have been the subjects of a search since 2001 when their creator Andy died in a motorcycle accident. His parents wish to transcribe his entries, but the journals disappeared, one deposited at an unknown location in Tasmania and the other last seen at an Australian music festival. Although Someguy has a vision of the journals returning home once finished, he doesn’t expect many will find their way back to San Francisco and is content to let them wander, capturing the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
Claire is a sophomore at Barnard College she is features editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.