Hull Daily Mail
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Everyday texts are a unique slice of history
Artist has kept every message she has ever been sent
by Will Ramsey
Monday November 21 2011
Tracey Moberly has intrigued the world. "I'm doing three interviews a day," said the South Wales-born artist. "I've spoken to radio stations from China to Pakistan to Australia. "It has gone global." The fascination relates to something most of us will experience regularly - getting a text message.
The difference with Tracey is that has saved every text she's received since 1999, from friends the 47-year-old made at school, to rock stars such as Pete Doherty - who sent the cryptic missive: "Eels slip down a treat." Tracey said: "Everybody sends text messages and everybody saves at least one or two. "It is like the new letter. "The majority of people save letters, but I seem to have been the only person in the world that has done this."
Tracey has written a book about the project, called Text-Me-Up, which she will be talking about at Hull's Museum Of Club Culture on Wednesday.
Part autobiography; part exploration of popular culture, the book charts the past decade or so through the tens of thousands of texts she has recorded.
There are memories of particular days, such as the texts she received during the London rally against the Iraq War, alongside messages from cultural figures such as the graffiti artist Banksy. She said: "It is lovely to be able to look back on your life through other people's words."
The artist began the project in 1999, after accidentally deleting the first text message she had ever received. From then on, she was intrigued - each text was like a "little sugar rush". While the texts were initially written down in a series of journals, in 2005 Tracey discovered a programme that allowed her to download them straight on to her computer.
She held her first exhibition of the texts in 2000 at Manchester's Castlefield Gallery. Since then, texts have been floated off in balloons with a unique number for the discoverers to respond to with their own texts, with a separate project seeing embroidered versions of particularly memorable messages. The project has intrigued academics and Tracey has received invitations from universities to talk about her work. She said: "As nobody else has done this, it is a unique archive. It is a slice of social history."
It has also proved inspirational to other artists - her talk in Hull will be held alongside an exhibition by illustration students from the Hull School Of Art And Design.
For Tracey, there could be a further angle to the project. The night before she spoke to the Mail, she realised her iPhone had stored every voicemail she had received. At the moment though, her focus is on the texts. She said: "It is like one person's DNA in words. "Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could stop, and given the levels of interest it would be silly to."
It is lovely to be able to look back on your life through other peoples words Tracey Moberly
TEXT ADDICT:Tracey Moberly