RT CREATIVE LAB, Moscow / RT / 2020
From 1941 to 1945, over 10 billion letters were posted and delivered in the USSR. For the 75th Anniversary of the Victory against Nazi Germany, we revealed a unique collection of 7000 war-time letters carefully stored for decades in family archives. We decided to give them a new rendition on Instagram.
“Endless Letter” is a unique graphic series featuring hundreds of excerpts from original WW2 front-line letters with illustrations created by young students of the Moscow RANEPA Design School as well as renowned artists Peter Bankov and Mikhail Sorkin. Emotional quotes from frontline missives were shared line-by-line in Stories creating a kind of "endless letter" with an original non-stop score by young Russian composer Max Makarychev. Letters from military schools, from the front line, from factories, hospitals and abandoned homes, some filled with hope, some carrying cherished last words.
“Endless Letter” is an emotional bridge between today’s peace and the horrific times of war when, against all odds, people loved, dreamed, experienced faith and anxiety. With “Endless Letter” our objective was to link the generations by narrative and visual means, with hope that our contemporaries and descendants will understand why this page of history should never be repeated.
This project is about the fate of an ordinary person. A soldier. A wife. A mother. A child. A father. It is a story of families who had to face such a horrid burden - a story about millions of people who lived and died during the second World War. One can only truly understand the full scale through emotional experience: through personal stories. And there is nothing more personal than letters.
"Endless Letter" uses the format of InstaStories in an innovative way by adapting historical WW2 family letters to an illustrative narrative, giving these historical artefacts a new life on social media. The project uses InstaStories to revive memory of the horror and pain of WW2 by communicating the story in a simple yet striking audio-visual format on social media. That's why we chose Instagram Stories - instead of a giant tranche of archive letters, we present curated short lines with illustrations that transfer the emotional essence of those tragic times into the present. The short quotes create a "digital" letter - an Endless Letter - a private Story of the country that lost over 25 million people between 1941 and 1945.
From thousands of letters, we carefully selected piercing quotes to create the “Endless Letter” using specially-designed typeface. Every written symbol is a precise copy of handwriting inscribed by WW2 veterans on the Reichstag walls in 1945.
We partnered with RANEPA Design School to make artistic illustrations to accompany each quote. 40 teenage designers took part in the project alongside famous artists Mikhail Sorkin and Peter Bankov. It was not only a significant art project for students but also a human experience, deeply affecting their emotions and feelings of empathy. It resulted in 500+ artworks in a variety of shapes, from collages to portraits.
4-hour original soundtrack adds to the atmosphere. Together with the music and illustrations the letters’ phrases create a touching emotional effect. One can vividly imagine how authors of the letters missed their homes, worried for their mothers and fathers, desired to live and went to their death.
In less than five months of running on Instagram, the Endless Letter gathered over 2 million views, 100,000+ social media engagements and 30,000 subscribers. The project received a wide local coverage with over 200 media publications but also being featured in global media. Being part of a bigger #VictoryPages project, Endless Letter helped attract over 35 million social media impressions in total.
Endless Letter expanded the reach by also going offline as a large-scale exhibition was held in 12 main parks in Moscow. Over 250 unique posters were specially created for this out-of-home experience which also had an interactive element - many of the illustrations could be brought to life through a special AR App. Tens of thousands of park-goers interacted with the project and had a chance to watch the static images turn into animated musical shorts by hovering their smartphones over the prints.
IRELAND DAVENPORT, Johannesburg
2014, FOX INTERNATIONAL