SCRIPTED - Exhibition 2004

Email Template #5: Excuse (brief, informal): opting out of The Invite.

At first glance, this piece appears to be a typical brief email greeting. However, closer inspection discerns that the italic subtexts in square brackets are actually suggestions within fill-in-the-blank fields. This is, in fact, a handy templated excuse (“opting out of The Invite”) that draws on the cliché but effective protocol of the courteous yet non-committal email communiqué.

In essence, this piece takes from the issues of ubiquitous online communication, as well as modern-day mentalities, and proposes a completely convenient, standardized form that mimics a vocabulary of blank fields and electronic pull-down menus of choices, of nifty but professional-looking resume and greeting card-making motifs: when we are told, “It’s quick and easy! All you have to do is just fill out this simple form”, the offer is oddly enticing.

In this way, personal relations have never been more impersonal. For example, we often leave our ability to express emotion to a stock set of “emoticons”, yellow smilie faces that stand in for our own (intended) facial gestures. Moreover, text message and chat interfaces mean that we can relay rapidly single-word blurbs, as well as read (or ignore) incoming messages at our own convenience. Thus, we can engage in stimulating conversations should we choose to, while keeping a distance, both in physical space and in time.

In effect, this piece takes the ever-present, time-saving, user-friendly “template” one step further by proposing the possibility of a database of templated responses that can be plucked for any occasion or circumstance; for example, as illustrated here, the obligatory non-confrontational reply. Hence, this would fulfill our desire to keep things the way they should be: short, simple, to the point, without compromising our desires to ‘personalize’ the impersonal.