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Flatiron Hot! News | December 12, 2017

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Retro Analog Campaigning: Sheryl Orin “I Wish to Say” Campaign in Mad Square Park Today

Retro Analog Campaigning: Sheryl Orin “I Wish to Say” Campaign in Mad Square Park Today
Tod Shapiro

Reported by Tod Shapiro for the Flatiron Hot! News

Flatiron and its environs are New York City’s digital hub, with its conglomeration of top digital media, internet companies, and tech startups, so we tend to assume that everything has to be high-tech when it comes to politics and campaigning these days.  But never underestimate the appeal of the old analog, retro way of doing things for all of us in the neighborhood!

On my way to the NYC Seminar Center offices today, as I walked across Mad Square Park’s south end right by the fountain, I came across the noted artist and activist Sheryl Oring, who’s “I Wish to Say” project aims to collect old-fashioned typed postcards from ordinary people with their thoughts on the presidential campaign, and mail them via snail mail to the candidates.  She and her staff had set up shop in Mad Square Park so to catch pedestrians’ attention as part of an effort to celebrate the publication of her new book memorializing her project and its impact – Activating Democracy – The I Wish to Say Project.

Yes, as improbable as it might seem, her project consists of collecting physical postcards, typed manually with that old relic, the typewriter – remember those?  She and her staff have set up typing pools in various public places as part of her efforts to take the time to speak with our neighbors and record their thoughts for the Trump and Clinton campaigns and incorporate selected postcards into a series of exhibitions featuring the wit and wisdom of the common man and woman, and of course, to be featured in her book!

Oring, a professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was present in the park today with some staffers at tables featuring copies of her book, and was being interviewed by Channel 11 News for a piece to  be show n this week. I spoke briefly with one of the staffers and had a chance to see for myself what it’s all about

Sure enough, there was Ms. Oring, with a vintage 1930 style typewriter, postcards and postage stamps, clacking away as the interview was going on, recreating for Channel 11’s audience the typing pool and approach she has used for her project.

It seems incongruous in these days of Trump and Clinton e-mail blasts, Twitter storms, and  Facebook posts being a big part of our political campaign, but there was a simple elegance  seeing our neighbors’ thoughts on the political events of the day in courier typeface on paper postcards – how incredibly quaint and retro!  The copies of the book on the table revealed quite a bit of the home-spun eloquence and wit and wisdom of the ordinary people – just what we need in this over-hyped and bloviating age of punditry and focus groups!  What Internet troll would take the time to fill out a post card and mail it in?

In any event, Professor Oring will be in Madison Square Park Tuesday until 3 PM, so look for the table and banners right by the fountain near Shake Shack.  If you can’t make it, check out this quick Flatiron Hot! Video Clip, or look for the news segment on Channel 11.  Those of you who take the time to fill out your own postcards and mail them in, or to take a picture, post your efforts on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtags #Iwishto say and #activatingdemocracy.