Lee Mingwei

Lee Mingwei / Taiwan/United States, b.1964 / Writing the unspoken 1999 / Wood, steel, light fittings, glass, writing paper and implements, envelopes, cushion / Purchased 2000. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / QAGOMA Photography / © The artist

Buddhist ritual and language inspire Lee Mingwei's art, which is based on the direct engagement of his audience and ideas of exchange. Writing the unspoken 1999 was developed from the artist's need to communicate feelings of love and grief following his grandmother's death. He explains:

How often, when we encounter another person, do we leave things unsaid, often the most important things, and the things we will carry inside for years afterward, things which are insistent and haunting, yet which remain unexpressed until the ears they seek are beyond reach?

Writing the unspoken provides space and opportunity for participants to express these verbal ghosts. The three booths invite visitors to reflect and write on three different things — gratitude, insight, and forgiveness. Within each booth is a writing surface and materials. Visitors are invited to write messages that are sealed into an addressed or unaddressed envelope, or choose not to seal the envelope so that other participants may read their words. Letters with addresses are mailed by the gallery. Letters left open provide inspiration and an example to other visitors, and highlight the commonality of our feelings of gratitude, insight, regret, and forgiveness. The open letters are later burnt by the artist in a private ceremony at the close of the exhibition.