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Le Sonneur's Love Letters

The anonymous French artist leaves messages and makeshift doorbells the world over

by Paolo Ferrarini
on 12 October 2015

"I am at your door, almost in your home. I play with these limits and I begin a gentle intrusion," Le Sonneur tells us. Rather than the beginning of a psychological thriller, these words seem to be proof that street art can be poetic. The anonymous French artist—whose work adorns homes from Paris to Mexico—sticks fake doorbells on entryways. He even writes love letters, leaving them on random doorsteps.

The mysterious artist took time to email with us (to protect his identity) and shared photos of his latest "interventions" in Paris, exclusively for CH. On his anonymity, Le Sonneur (in French: “the ringer”) says, "I am a discreet person. I like to do things out of sight. Anonymity and imagination are central to my work. Being anonymous among these strangers whom I told the story is my natural attitude."

Le Sonneur believes that his work is all a matter of storytelling. "Each doorbell tells you a story. Sometimes it surprises you or makes you smile. Maybe it will make you look differently at those anonymous details we usually cross without even noticing," he says. It's perhaps not common to find such a delicate and sweet form of street art, but Le Sonneur says he's not alone: “Street art takes many shapes and provides passers with touches of lightness and emotion. My interventions divert archetypes of domesticity such as doorbells or mail. In a way, they are similar to 'street hacking.' They offer a reinterpretation of what’s ordinary and tell stories inspired by every day life."

With letters, for every one, from the likes of Prince Charming and A Refugee to Marty McFly, Le Sonneur's references are broad—sometimes familiar and universal, while other times seemingly niche. "Literature, poetry and film inspire me. Music and theater, too. Heroes and icons of popular culture populate my imaginary city. My interventions ignite a reflection on anonymity and indifference in the city. Your neighbor could not be who you think. Who are these strangers around us? Who is hiding in the crowd?”

“Many artists nourish my reflection. I refer in particular to the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck and his work on 'in-betweens'—those boundaries between spaces that become actual places, interfaces. By intervening on doorsteps with my doorbells or my love letters, it is in this same gap that I act on in order to create an episode. In their own way, the work of the 'Situationists' and their way to project the event in the city also inspires me, as Georges Perec and his novels 'Life a User's Manual' and 'An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris.' I share their way of observing the life of anonymous people, how they tell and nobilitate the obvious.”

The artist has a nostalgic and almost wholesome outlook on his work. It's almost like a personal memoir—albeit scattered over the planet. "It’s a diary of my trips and my travels; a story of my observations and my inspirations in the city," he says. "I look for places—crowded or empty, surprising, secret and remarkable. I watch thresholds and doors. In recent weeks—from Hong Kong, Dubai or Singapore—strangers inspired by my work offered to join the project. I’m grateful and I gave it a thought. I’m trying to imagine a common score that everyone could interpret freely, to write an 'open text' in the manner of Umberto Eco. It would be a nice way to recount the cities we imagine and dream and have them meet."

Images by Le Sonneur for Cool Hunting

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