Land of Illness, Land of Wellness

Currently Not Live 🙁

Land of Illness. Land of Wellness is a sequential, daily, live reading of 2000+ pages of email exchanges between myself and ‘Client A.’ This perfunctory review of 9 months will lay bare reverence, courtship, hopes, vision, strategy, practicalities, authorship, people-pleasing, emotional management, hyperbole, rage—to ultimately, the threat of litigation. The return to these electronic exchanges attempts to expose the true cost of client-based graphic design in the digital communication era, and exorcise the residual occupying forces held in the body.


Day 1
Reading chronologically, but thematically, means there are lapses in logic. Returning to the emails, it’s sometimes hard for me to understand the events, the reactions, the requests within. My memory fills in the blanks. Memory is vital information. Memory AS vital information. In a perfunctory read for an unknown audience, I suspect anyone listening closely is lost in the barrage of words. I’m understanding that this exorcise is my spending time with the structure of communication, versus the content. What’s less clear is my taking comfort that folks are not listening that closely. That the confusion serves to have the audience popping in and out of the live stream. The cumulative effect could be a density of words, an intensity of back-and-forth, and the unsustainable aspects of the designer-client relationship.

Day 2
Such tenderness in our communication at times. Most of the time. I felt her poetic nature a bunch today. Her thoughts expressed in a beautiful, illustrative, deep manner. I also was struck, by being struck, with the sudden and sharp turn in her tone on October 14th. The first “drop”. Her deliberate withholding of communication, followed by the mention of her sending a certified letter to me to explain. I joked “Am I being served?” Contrary to the promise of chronology, reading our correspondence thematically/by folder is weaving me in-and-out of emotions, and the pragmatics of our relationship, more similarly to the complexity of its real-time doppelgänger.

Day 3
So many questions today. In the repetitive reading of the video script, was what I wrote in earnest was also an omen? In the editing of Client A’s philosophy for wellness, did I prophetically create a map for how to proceed when we fell into distress?

Fighting a riptide is not effective.
You can’t fight and get yourself back to shore.
The way you survive is to surrender, go on your back, and trust that the tide is going to take you into safety.

So much of what I read today literally gave me pause. (Seemingly) hidden messages were revealed. Were they there for me to see, then? Or are they only meaningful, 2 years later, through the lens of hindsight? Today’s read was a personal validation that time bends. It’s not linear. And what to make of when reading a literal redacted passage, I failed to redact Client A’s business name. My only slip-up. What’s the significance there?

Day 4
Email isn’t an artifact that recalls truth. It’s muddled from the moment someone hits “send.” Sure, it’s hard to imply tone, but also individual memory is embedded in between the lines and it cannot be unaccounted for. Email trails are even worse, they confuse communication even further. With every reply, as we attach (and cling to) previous messages, we don’t bring the past with us as much as we confuse the present and set the stage for a future full of misunderstanding.

Day 5
The idea of time travel was super present as I completed 3 “lighter” folders. Hitting the end of a folder—the places where communication broke-down—then beginning a new category, back in time, where communication is the polar opposite, is a strange choreography. Currently questioning how to use non-linear archiving to inform successful, real-time, communication.

Day 6
More questions about things non-linear—like memory and the prosthetic memory that email (trails) elicit. We pack so much info into single emails, then build upon this by bumping-up excerpts, increasing quote levels. We are saying no memory required: “here!” “this!” but can we rely on the making and fitting of artificial memory through email trails?

And/or if we do we read all the past words again, would it be a salve for the inevitable straying from the connection between designer and client? Or at the very least honor a linear structure that could keep a semblance of true communication? Or neither.

Day 7
I stopped paying attention in reading this folder [Love Rub]. The reason/excuse/proof isn’t fully clear, but this folder, more than any other before, exposes my complicity in the breakdown of communication. The requests for this aspect of the rebrand, sure, were out of scope, and intense. However, the high(er) degree of client involvement is partially my fault—due to neglect, and/or the effects of my cumulative frustration. I can see how I might have push her to increased imposition and assertion. I didn’t hold my boundary sooner. Nice to have this opportunity to take responsibility for my part in what was to come.

From my vantage point, now, I wonder if I was attempting to implode my design practice? Creative destruction is a method I use.

Day 8


Day 9
I didn’t send an email schedule, as I have each week, yesterday. A modicum of vulnerability has always been present, but with Friday’s technical issue I was given pause. At first the desire to redact Client A’s birth and business names was wanting to keep the performance kosher, legally. Then, after I began to read, it shifted from fear of litigation to sweetly wanting to give Client A privacy. There was nothing shameful in our/her communication, but a modicum of caring for her in this way grew strong. Today, knowing who Client A was is distracting from seeing the structure of this interrogation into practice. The curiosity in who Client A is, is understandable. I get it. And redacting is bringing disproportionate attention (and importance) to what’s being withheld. With every utter of “redact” do I privilege Client A over the relationship? Over the exploration into structure?

The daily performances will continue. Not inviting an audience might elicit a more rigorous audience viewing. Shift things away from blind-item curiosity. Performance needs witness, this performance needs to be seen differently.

Day 10
The cumulation of the past days have been a beacon. Tech issues aren’t the only thing plaguing this performance. Yesterday, being dive-bombed by mud daubers made for a distracting, and then, symbolic morning. I found meaning in the presence of the wasps, their aggressive interest in me, and my inability to focus—I was threatened with being stung. This on top a choppy live stream.

[For now] I’m changing the trajectory of Land of Illness. Land of Wellness. I’ll continue to perform daily, and record, not stream, the readings. I’ll see where this lands.

Day 11
Folder “365” his a unique teacher. It involved so much visual beauty—that this project didn’t see the light of day leaves me mourning. The quotes paired with the photography, too, have been a rolling subtext of who I am, (who she is), and what I desire in the designer-client relationship.

I did not come here to solve anything. I came here to sing and for you to sing with me. ~ Pablo Neruda

Day 12
At the end of completing “365” I moved to the next. A cursory overview shows much of it was read already. Had I archived things 2x? And/or had the emails been embedded in previously read email trails? Like the project, things have gotten messy and unclear. I need to take stock on how to proceed.

Day 13
In preparation, I scan the emails in advance for the next day’s read—to redact Client A’s name, business and associates. I then come to the studio to broadcast the reading of emails again live for the daily performance. Many times I’ve stumbled internally, not knowing if I am repeating myself. Was it part of an email trail? Did I read the same line twice? Am I remembering the email from when I was redacting. The confusion of email.

Day 14
Emails not only reference and build upon earlier emails, but include snippets of emails from vendors, peppered in and forwarded for input/comment/confirmation. Emails pick up where phone or Skype exchanges left off—and no trail of that conversation exists. Only memory of writing the email, in the original time gets close to truth. Hardly empirical. We cling to it, falsely, to CYA.

Day 15
This is an interrogation of practice versus an exorcism. However that too is happening.

Day 16
The review of the immersive, intimate engagement I have with Client A (and all my clients) is being counter-balanced (or erased, or eclipsed, or replaced…) by the granular website I published in one day

Day 17
Curiosity about “who” Client A is is growing. At first I wanted to protect myself from a lawsuit. Now I want to protect Client A’s privacy. And underneath the superficiality of fear or respect is that this is not about revealing or protecting the client, but a reveal of the structure of professional design practice. Who Client A is, is a distraction.

Day 18
NO. 074 SORROW Four be the things I am wiser to know: Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe. Dorothy Parker
Again, in reading for live stream by day, and reading to redact at night, the memory of the emails in original time are what’s missing. I’m all turned around… am I repeating the same email exchange I just read? Is this memory of last night’s redacting? Just looking at the email trail, how deep they can go, it’s crazy, illustrated.

Day 19
In reading the back-and-forth in the “Video” folder, I was able to pull back and recognized how my frustration with Client A got transferred to the videographer. Sure sure we had our creative struggles, but I throw her under the bus to client. I believe I did this to realign and bond with Client A who was beginning to show her frustration and anger with me. And/or did I do this to tamper the frustration I was feeling with client… I regret using the creation of a third enemy to diffuse the tension between myself and Client A.

The things that set me off in real time/at-the-time are so (objectively) innocent. What’s my complicity in making the client a monster.

I re-reading the particularly long emails, the exhaustive emails, I notice myself fluctuating in attention from enthusiastic interest, animation, energy, action to zoning out and dialing it in, to angry at being bothered, to wanting to stop, give up.

Day 20
My script for Client As video… the re-editing of her words read as an omen to what we’ll need to finish the project.

Day 21
I never have lamented not seeing a body of work not be “published”. Maybe because by that time I’m very much done and over with it (and possibly the client). However, my emotional state is raw at realizing this work wasn’t used. Looking at an attachment on email, of the design, is what prompted this remorse. This was a smart and beautiful project, robbed of seeing the light of day. It pains me.

Day 22
I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie. – Ranier Maria Rilke. 

Maybe I’m not so very different from my 2014 year old self: When reading a thread, I was quietly resolving the issue in my mind, and then in the email I resolved it the same way too. However this wasn’t a memory of how I handled it then, but how I would have done it today.

Day 23
In a particular email, I’m communicating to the client an edit I made to copy. I show the edit with a strike through. During the live stream I FAILED to read “redacted” when mentioning the client’s business name in my edit. I exposed the redacted client’s business name. I didn’t redact the redact. HA!

Day 24
Interesting that the folder VA:OAP has very little mention of client and business name. The back end aspect of brand building has nothing to do with the client. It’s all structure, no person(ality). Vendors rarely if ever mention her name.

Day 25
The break from me, by the client, could’ve be the client projecting on me her anger at her illness. Telling me/it to fuck-off. The nature of our agreement, and where we got in communication, was my creating a strong boundary. I cut her out. Said she has no more say. I’m in charge…

I accept (now) that being that I was that stand-in, her voodoo doll. ^^

Day 25
So much compassion for the client came up for me today. Like, I want to call her. I won’t. I know who I’m dealing with, but my desire to return to a time of deep appreciation and tenderness is desired.

Day 26
Somatic knowledge. Body memory is coming up. I’m detached from this—via the read 2 years later—but can access the same stressors. They feel like old ones, not the new ways of responding to (similar) stress. I can identify that what I’m feeling is history found the body, not the same feeling.

Day 27
There’s a (subtle) struggle for authorship between me and client. I know this is true (absolutely) for me, and can see now it for client. But… BUT! Am I projecting onto her this desire for authorship? Am I misinterpreting a different need of hers (related or otherwise) to balance my “selfish” need for authorship.ownership out? Balance my “failure” for striving for this out?

Day 28
In so many emails there is such deference to me, by the client. The deferral is “respectful” absolutely, but I wonder if the demurring provoked my need to create equity/balance in the relationship and I got aggro. Just a thought.

Day 29
Client said, in explaining her preference in photo subject/quality “[ I ] do like the beauty in brokenness.”

Client asked, in response to a choice I made about her pdf that was opposite of her want: “So you value lightness over consistency?”

Day 30
The folder titled LAWYER was read last, and as intense as it was, I completed it in one sitting. Communicating within a legal landscape served to structure an emotional, volatile time. Then and now. It’s the perfect place to end the month-long performance. Returning to the folder—that truly punctuated the 9 month project—I felt then, and feel now, at peace with how I handled Client A, myself, and the work.