"I will send an offensive postcard to the first person to reply to this message," Mr. Bingo tweeted one fine, drunken night. After numerous Twitter replies and an insult-laced postcard, the popular Internet art project, "Hate Mail," was born. Conceived by the London-based artist in 2011, the project offers wonderfully offensive and expertly drawn postcards that can be sent to solicitors or solicitor's
worst enemies friends for a small fee.
Adorned with bon mots like "You are a loser and you have a fat back" and "Fuck you and fuck your cat," Mr. Bingo's miniature art pieces are like abusive versions of the beloved Dial-A-Poem.
"Hate Mail" has been widely-received across the virtual world, so much so that the project often goes into hibernation because Mr. Bingo can't keep up with the overwhelming demand. Over 400 illustrated postcards have made their way though the UK postal system, but the service is currently sold out on the artist's website. Don't fret just yet, because Penguin recently launched a book, aptly titled "Hate Mail," filled with the objectionable quips and digs that make the project great.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bingo, who chatted with us via email about the story behind "Hate Mail." Check out the interview below and scroll down for images:
HP: What spurred this project?
MB: No thought went into it at all, I was just messing about. The response was huge so I decided to open a service on my website called "Hate Mail", where I offered to send offensive postcards to anyone who was willing to pay (a small fee) for it. I soon realised it was too popular for me to physically fulfil all the orders so I had to close it after about 3 days. Since then I've only opened it a few more times and each time the service is only open for about 15 minutes or so, otherwise I get too many orders!
HP: What inspires your hate mail? Do you need to put yourself in a negative space or do the insults just flow?
MB: Nothing inspires it really. I just think of really awful things you could say to people, maybe it's something about their appearance, or their lifestyle or possibly something a lot darker or thought provoking, or something that might might force them to reconsider their whole existence.
HP: You've said in a video posted to your website that you were just a naughty schoolboy with a penchant for drawing. Do you still feel the same way? Or do you see your work as a higher art form now?
MB: I guess I do feel a bit like the naughty schoolboy sometimes still. When I was at school I learnt that I liked the feeling of drawing things in class that provoked reactions and gave me attention. I liked this feeling, so really all I'm doing is trying to carry on doing this but as a career, instead of something I'm not meant to be doing in a classroom. I never really call myself an artist. I do like to make things that people look at and react to, so maybe I am? I prefer to let other people decide what I am, rather than put a label on it myself.
HP: Is there one message that you are specifically proud of? Basically, we want to hear your worst.
MB: "Dear Ben, Give up your unrealistic dreams", is my favourite one. I also like some of them for the design. One I did (you can see in the video actually) is just the word C*NT hand painted perfectly on the back of a postcard, using up the space perfectly. For me what makes this one funny is the accuracy and the attention to detail for what is quite a ridiculous message. It excites me to imagine what the people at the mail sorting offices think as it passes through and also what the postman might think as he delivers a postcard with just C*NT painted on the back.
HP: The project seems to be a hit. Why do you think people like receiving offensive messages?
MB: Yes, they do like them a lot! It's an interesting question, what is it about humans that makes them like them? They are funny (hopefully) so if you're thick skinned enough not to be offended by the postcard, then what you're buying is a funny one off signed piece of art. A lot of people assume that most humans are quite serious, but this project proves that grown up people actually really like to be silly. It's comedy really. People like comedy because it can be absurd and ridiculous and it can take your mind away from everyday life which can be quite dull to many people. It's fun and it's escapism and everybody needs these things.
HP: Has anyone ever reciprocated the gesture?
MB: Yes, my studio address is on my website so I've received a bit of Hate Mail back. I currently only offer the service to the UK so I got an angry postcard from Israel saying 'Go global, you w*nker'. I also received a chocolate swiss roll with 'F*CKER' written on it in icing. I didn't eat it.
HP: If we requested an abusive postcard, what would you send us?
MB: You'll find out in about a week.
HP: What's next for you? More Hate Mail or do you have some happier projects on the horizon?
MB: I think Hate Mail will run and run for a long time, but it's only a tiny percentage of what I create. I'm meant to be a commercial illustrator (which I still enjoy) but personal projects like Hate Mail keep things more interesting. It's always more rewarding and satisfying to invent things that you can make a living from, rather than doing pictures for clients.