Interview: Leanne Shapton

By SHARON STEEL  |  March 24, 2009

Would the auction have been as comprehensive if Lenore weren't a writer, and Hal weren't a photographer?
I needed them to love ephemera. I really wanted Hal to be a picture maker and I really wanted Lenore to be bookish. It was crucial to the story, because there are people who don't keep anything. I had them come from a very visual world, and a kind of literate world, so that I'd have a paper trail to chart their ups and downs. I also set it slightly before we were doing everything on e-mail, when people still sent faxes. I wanted to have them be the last people who would confess their love over text. I wanted them to be the people who would write it down, or inscribe it in books, and leave Post-Its for each other.

Do you think it's possible to know who someone is, or what people shared, solely from their things?
I don't. I think there's still a lot of mystery to Hal and Lenore. I think what we think we understand is because it's comprehensible to us, and it's based on our own experiences. I don't think anyone really knows what it's like, or what the magic is. There's something that keeps people together. And you never really know what that is — because it's unexplained itself. I wasn't trying to say that we can understand people through their things. It was more a case of the residue of love: what we infuse with love, the meaning we assign to completely meaningless things. I was much more interested in love occupying things and then disappearing, and what's left afterward, and how we feel about that. It's about looking at it from a different side, and playing with the conceits of how many stories do exist in inanimate objects.

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