Hopes and Fears

2008 – 2009

When I got to London it seemed like everyone was going around thinking big things. Lots of furrowed brows and staring into space on the tube and on buses. I wondered what everyone was thinking, because it seemed to be important. I decided to find out the things that were keeping us all up at night, the hopes and fears of a city.

It was simple: For just over a year I distributed flyers around London. One side was black on white and said SEND ME YOUR HOPES with a text number and a web address. The reverse was white on black and said SEND ME YOUR FEARS with a text number and a web address. Hope and fear are not binary opposites, and, I suspected, two sides of the same coin. I wanted to know what London’s hopes and fears were.

Thousands of people submitted completely anonymous responses by text and web. The responses were a litmus test of what everyone was worrying about, and at the time in London it was largely the impending economic meltdown, but it was also countless other things – friends, family, future, past, insecurities.

All responses were agless, sexless, faceless, classless. They could belong to anyone, of any age. They were poignant in their honesty, brutal in their truth, beautiful in their optimism. What did strike me, however, was how negative many of the hopes were; it seemed, at that point in time at least, that London was only hoping that bad things wouldn’t happen. It’s not only a record of the hopes and fears of London, but also a record of London’s values at that point in time – during the project the financial crisis of 2008 happened, threatening the global economy, and this instability was directly reflected in the responses that came in.

The experience of collecting the responses was great, but it needed a final printed product. I wrestled with this for a long time, and finally settled on a deck of printed cards – black cards for fears, white cards for hopes, a selection of 25 of each. Each the same size and weight, lending equal importance to each hope and fear, no matter how serious or superficial they were.

I would like to carry out this project in other cities worldwide. Get in contact if you’d like to help me carry it out where you live. The project still chugs away quietly online, at HopesAndFears.net.

(This project was generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.)