We visited artist Peter Liversidge in his studio to learn about the creative process behind his latest work in collaboration with the museum.

Peter Liversidge is a contemporary artist living and working in London. As part of the Wish You Were Here exhibition at The Postal Museum, he has combined his passion for the post and his iconic ‘proposals’ to produce new work in response to the 150th anniversary of the British postcard.

We are thrilled that Peter has produced 4 unique proposals for The Postal Museum, in the form of postcards, which visitors to the exhibition can pick up to send, keep, or contemplate the thought-provoking ideas printed on the cards.

Here, Peter discusses the development of the proposals and his interest in the postal system with us.

You have been experimenting with the postal system as a collaborator in your work for many years with Postal Objects, how did your passion for the post start?

When I was about 12 years old, I sent a piece of toast in the post, and a few coconuts amongst many other things. Then as a student I send my studio chair (I then had nowhere to sit in the studio for 3 weeks whilst the show was on) to Spacex Gallery in Exeter, piece by piece. It was put together at the gallery as it arrived. I‘ve been sending objects ever since then, so for about 35 years in total.

Postal objects by Peter Liversidge

For me it always comes back to the unknown collaborator, the hand in the mail passing the objects from one place or point to another. Who are those postal workers who mark and write on the postal objects or post, cancelling the stamps as they go whilst leaving their unique mark?

Equally how would the object be received, would the sentiment be translated by the miles covered, would the intention still be true? How would I (we) ever know? To that extent I have always been interested in the processes by which the post is delivered, how does it get from where we post it to where it’s meant to be in the hand of the intended recipient.

For this exhibition, you have produced 4 original proposals each printed onto a postcard, which visitors to The Postal Museum can take home or post while they are at the Museum. How do you produce your proposals and what inspired the words in this instance?

The Proposals for each project are unique, written for each place, after research and involvement with the hosting institution. The singular nature of the proposal and the context into which they are seen can change their meaning.

Peter Liversidge in his studio

The proposals written for The Postal Museum are written with a unique starting point in that they will be presented as multiple postcards and given to those who visit the exhibition, who then in turn choose who is to see them. Do they stay on the fridge (?!) or do they get sent? When the postcard enters the post box it enters a world imagined. Where does it go and for how long? Who sees it? Do they read it?

Proposal postcard for The Postal Museum’s exhibition

Proposal postcards for The Postal Museum’s exhibition

In the case of these proposal postcards, it is the new unknown context for the work or possible interpretation of that work that is most interesting. Who will receive the cards? How will they respond (will they respond)? Is it enough that the card arrives with them or, do we, they, or I know what those who are receiving the cards think? Does that matter? I think not.

Once the card has been sent and has arrived, it is no longer mine, or The Postal Museum’s, but it becomes the choice of the person who sends it and to whom has received it. It becomes something they share.

What excited you particularly about the format of the postcard?

I love sending postcards, a hello, look where we are at the moment, reminders, conversations and many other possibilities. It is still the unknown facet that intrigues me – how is a postcard received? Especially from holiday. When I was 12/13 I used to always think about racing the postcard home, always thinking; where is it now on the journey? Where am I?

Also the arrival, at what point in the day does it get there and is there someone there to receive it, or does fall to the floor sitting on the mat just waiting to be discovered and deliver my, our, your message. What is it like? What about the weather? The heat, the stars, to be read and re-read throughout the following days. It is that reception alongside the intention to send a message, that makes the postcard an involving, generous, organic process. It’s a way to let some know that you are thinking of them and wanting to share your experiences.

The proposals reflect both the thought and the process involved in sending a postcard. Did you find as you developed the text that the proposals were also influenced by recent events?

At the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, I had a similar experience to most, in that I had a very difficult time adjusting to the first lockdown. My son had COVID-19 on 16th March, so we were in isolation and went into lockdown from then. I struggled for the first three weeks, not sure how to think about the lockdown and the changed environment, the restrictions placed upon us whilst not knowing what the danger really was. Then I started to make the work that became Sign Paintings for the NHS.

The Sign Paintings started as a response to what was happening and I wasn’t thinking of the signs as an ‘artwork’ but as a way of voicing my support for the NHS and other essential and key workers. Over 7 weeks it was added to every single day and grew to at large group of 571 signs stretching along over 50 meters of fencing alongside Wennington Green in East London.

I thought about the text (for this exhibition) in relation to what we have all been through during multiple lockdowns and the need to see and be with those we love.

I hope it will encourage people to use the post and post cards to their friends and family. To bring people together, to remind others of others in their lives, and how those others think about them when they are not together.

You can pick up a Peter Liversidge postcard on a visit to The Postal Museum, as part of Wish You Were Here: 151 Years of the British Postcard, until 2 January 2022.