Rora Blue is an artist most known for her series The Unsent Project, an artistic endeavor centered on loneliness, angst, and yearning; users are encouraged to send in anonymous messages they wish they could send to their first love. These messages are colored (often in what the writer believes is their first love’s favorite color). As of now, over 100,000 submissions have been entered from all over the world. It’s a beautiful and sobering method of connecting people with one another, and Blue finds herself at the project’s core. We communicated with her via email in May to discuss The Unsent Project, how her plans for it came about, and where she wants to go next with it.
Courtesy of The Unsent Project
Lithium Magazine: First off, how have you been? Quarantine affects everyone differently, and I’m interested to hear what it’s been like.
Rora Blue: COVID quarantine has been an interesting experience for me. I live with chronic illnesses that can leave me mostly housebound for weeks or months at a time. This has been the case for me since December. So when the world entered quarantine for COVID, not much about my day-to-day life changed. I was already only able to leave the house when it was extremely necessary. In that sense, I would say I was more prepared for COVID quarantine than a lot of people. I’ve had to develop a lot of coping mechanisms for social isolation and my inability to leave the house through having chronic illnesses. At the same time, there have certainly been moments of anxiety because I’m more at risk for COVID due to my compromised immune system. It’s an interesting duality of being simultaneously the least and most prepared for this.
Lithium: How has your health been recently?
Blue: Living with chronic illnesses means that I’m always symptomatic to some degree, but I experienced a dramatic increase in symptoms in late November. This has meant a whole laundry list of symptoms that affect me in a variety of ways including not being able to walk or stand for very long. Of course it’s difficult being in pain, but these past few months have also been a time of abundant personal growth. I experienced such a rapid decline in health because I overexerted myself and didn’t ask for the accommodations that I needed from organizations and institutions I was interacting with. Unfortunately, so many spaces are inaccessible and I was trying to navigate these spaces even though it was harming me physically. It’s been an important turning point for me in learning to advocate for myself and my needs.
Lithium: These have been difficult times, and I’m sure that may have been reflected in the submissions sent to The Unsent Project. Are there any that have particularly caught your attention as of late that have yet to be featured on your Instagram?
Blue: Yes, I think that people have been increasingly turning to digital outlets during quarantine. I have a whole folder of Unsent Project submissions that catch my attention. I pull from these color-coded folders to post on Instagram. One of the dark purple ones says “Loving you was the most exquisite form of self-destruction.”
Lithium: I looked up my own name, curious as I am, and I ended up running into a series of texts from this one girl sent to someone of my namesake—enough to form an entire story. It’s been super interesting to read these texts and know that people out there are going through such drastic emotions. Have you ever looked up your own name?
Blue: Wow, that’s very interesting! I know a lot of people look up their names in the archive regularly. I’ve enjoyed looking up my name in the archive from time to time. There are a few messages anonymously thanking me for creating the Unsent Project. That always really warms my heart.
Lithium: I can’t help but feel waves of sadness when I scroll through the account. It’s a particularly emotional reaction that most people in your comments section seem to have. How do you think The Unsent Project unlocks such visceral emotions?
Blue: The submissions [definitely] vary widely in emotional tone. A lot of the work that I do is tied to seeing how the emotional tone of a message is correlated with color. I think The Unsent Project is able to unlock visceral emotions through a sort of simplicity. I use everyday objects throughout my art, and voicemails and text messages are an extension of that. I’m interested in things that we interact with on a day-to-day basis. There’s power in the mundane, and almost everyone has sent or not sent a text message at some point.
Lithium: Something particularly beautiful about The Unsent Project is that its very nature requires a 21st-century setting. How much do you think existing in the age of the internet has affected love and its application?
Blue: For better or worse, I think the internet has completely changed the way that people interact. The internet has certainly expanded the types of relationships that we can have. Long-distance relationships are more possible than ever before because of video calls and texting. A lot of people even look for love on the internet by using dating apps. I see the internet as a powerful tool for accessibility and sometimes saving time. Where I think it all falls short is that people can choose to accentuate certain parts of themselves that don’t necessarily represent them as a whole.
Lithium: I’ve debated texting an ex during quarantine—but I just used The Unsent Project instead! What do you hope people will gain from not just the process of submission, but also being able to pore through the submissions and find ones they relate to?
Blue: How wonderful! That’s exactly what the Unsent Project is there for. Reading other people’s submissions can be cathartic because it can help you verbalize something you didn’t even know you felt. I hope that writing a submission or reading others will help people process whatever it is that may be feeling or going through.
Lithium: Final question—where do you hope The Unsent Project goes in the future?
Blue: As of today there are 112,204 submissions to The Unsent Project. Can you believe that? I hope the project can continue to help and work as an outlet for people. I am working on submission collages on wood panels with resin to have a solo exhibition in the future. I also hope to publish a book of submissions. With a project as massive as this one has become, there’s a lot of work to do!
By Kenneth Kim