Participants are instructed to write a letter to a person in the future, in hope that by naming the future, they can visualize and engage with it. Letters to the Future is not intended for those the letters are addressed to, but for the “breathing present”.
With the public display of letters in Letters to the Future, Cortada builds upon a body of work that utilizes written words through “message murals”. Through the usage of this medium, Cortada is able to present a platform for his participant’s voices to be heard in a way that is aesthetically recognizable as a work of art. This immediately changes the audience’s interaction with these pieces, prompting a more comprehensive examination of what’s at hand. This can be seen through Cortada’s ArtCare: Outreach to Juveniles in Adult Jails, a project from 2001 based around the collaboration between the artist and 140 jailed youth. In this project, Cortada incorporated letters and messages from all 140 collaborators to create the mural, Convictim, in an effort to provide marginalized voices with a platform to speak.
Through the act of writing letters that display some level of concern for the future, the audience acknowledges the connection that the present has with the future, in hopes of prompting awareness and solutions to issues that affect us now. This acceptance of the future is both a literal and conceptual undertaking, as the literal participation of the audience in Letters to the Future concurrently acts as a form of acceptance of our current environmental reality. Through this acceptance of our current state, there can be no more ignorance towards the issues that the environment is currently facing. Differentiating from DO NOT OPEN, however, is the lack of ritualistic performance, Letters to the Future behaving exactly as the title entails, as a recognition of the future.