This blog is about the power of the unknown sender, of the art world’s effect on people outside the establishment, canalized through a scam that I now in retrospect consider being my first mail-art attempt.
In the late 1980s I worked for the Church of Sweden in a church yard in my hometown. I was a gardener but also had inner duties inside the church. I was never interested in Christianity but was fond of architecture and this was nice when working in a historical building. It was a great job where the outside gardening and digging gave fresh air and working inside the church was very calming, I remember polishing the silver in the winter while listening to the soundtrack from the Twin Peaks TV series echoing between the great walls and ceiling. This 18th century church was built almost looking like a giant barn, a style developed as the small and dark medieval churches became too small to host the growing masses of people. They were not only big but also very bright with lesser artifacts than its forerunners. The chalked walls were white inside and out and the windows clear. This was not only cheaper to build but also let the “holy” light being reflected into the church room. The times were enlightened even in the churches. So in this environment I spent my time, it was easy for my mind to wander about in this bright modern museum like environment.
Now we had a priest that was close to retirement and all priests of importance wish to give some kind of legacy. A renovation or a monument bought by the grand funds of the church, but in his name. So one day I opened the church doors for one of Sweden’s most reputable and respected artists and his entourage. He proudly held up sketches for stained glass windows before the bright light.
-NO, I said, but only to myself. The architecture of this bright church would be darkened with painted glass and the 50 000 euros could be spent on better things.
Would the priest had listened to me if I told him my point of view? Would the chairman of the church council hear the voice from an eighteen year old gardener with dirt stained clothes? Both of them had eyes for the famous artist and both wished to be remembered long after their death.
So I sat down and wrote a letter. I decided to write this letter addressed to the church council. And I decided to impose as a fictional art history professor specializing in18th century Scandinavian architecture. I invented Sandra Baervies, that became the professors name. In 1988 with no internet things were harder to check up and no one did, maybe out of fear of dropping their faces, being novices as they were concerning art.
I had no special rubber stamp to put on the envelope so it looked kind of unofficial and I wrote with a graphite pencil and had not much of a writing style so it looked like it had been written by a mad professor. I do not remember the exact words but I strongly recommended to cancel the stained glass windows and that the council wasn't doing any good concerning the history of architecture.
They never proceeded with the stained glass window project. My letter was registered and filed in the safe vault and no one has ever before now been told about this letter. The artist and chairman is dead and the priest still lives his calm retirement, strongly remembered by me. This I call my first and last mail-art scam.