My name is Yuri Angela Chung and I'm a freelance graphic designer living & working in LA.
I was 25 years old in 2010 when I was first diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Right before entering my fifth year in remission, the cancer came back in the form of Stage 4 breast cancer—which had metastasized to my lungs, bones, and brain. Today, I am 32 and living with metastatic breast cancer.
What is Notes To A Friend?
Notes To A Friend is a collection of writings that describe my personal experiences with cancer.
Nowadays, there isn't a person you meet who hasn't been affected by cancer in one way or another. But at the same time, it's still a taboo subject in our culture. Unless you have been there yourself, most people have a naive understanding of what "cancer" entails: chemo, hair loss, death. But what about everything in between?
Every cancer is different. And every cancer has a person behind it who has a story. Notes To A Friend is mine.
Origins of Notes To A Friend
A few months prior to my diagnosis, I was working on a personal project with a friend that focused on my growth as a young designer after cancer. During this time, I sent him “notes” that I wrote while remembering certain moments I considered important in my story. Then shortly after, almost like a scene out of a movie, I found out that my cancer came back. And the narrative we were building together suddenly became irrelevant. When the recurrence happened, I was scared but also inspired. I needed to continue my story, and I needed to continue to create. The notes I sent to my friend were intimate thoughts that I had never shared with anyone—and now, I felt the urgency of a purpose that I needed to share. And that’s how I started Notes To A Friend.
I decided to post one "note" a day for ten days on my Instagram account. These first ten notes were reflections from the first time cancer entered my life; and the following eight were my most current reflections of everything I was feeling and going through at that moment.
When I started posting Notes To A Friend, the emotional response was immediate. Friends and strangers were sending me support, love and gratitude. I realized that writing and sharing these notes were not only a remedy to my own trauma—but also supporting others and giving an honest insight into a subject that most people don't want to talk about.
Every once in a while, a stranger will find his or her way to Notes To A Friend; and every once in a while, that stranger will send me a beautiful message about how my notes have helped them in some way. These connections are what Notes To A Friend is about.
What Your Funds Will Do
Our current goal is $50,000. This will enable us to turn Notes To A Friend into an experience in New York that anybody can visit and share. This will allow us to rent space for a month, letterpress the notes and secure the technology needed to activate the notes—projectors, computers, speakers and the like.
We're planning for this to happen in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We thought this would be the perfect time to elevate awareness about cancer and help to normalize the conversations around it. The installation will be up and running throughout the month for anybody to come visit. We're also planning to use the space to host events throughout the month. Cancer is a lot of things, but one thing it is not is easy to talk about.
There are currently 21 notes that I've written, all of which you can read here. They will be letterpressed as 18” x 24” posters and mounted on the walls in the space. The idea is that they’ll be blind debossed, which means the words will be pressed onto the paper without ink. While they will still be able to be read, the idea is they’re not really “activated” until the actual note is being read by Embeth in the space. The audio of her voice triggers the projection mapping, which fills the words with light, a form of digital “ink.” This is where technology comes in.
There will be around eight to ten projectors mounted in the space, possibly less depending on the quality of projectors we’re able to secure. These projectors will be part of a system that synchronizes the playback of the audio and video throughout the space. In order to achieve this, the budget will include multiple networked computers capable of handling multi-output high resolution playback. Alternative options come with tradeoffs: higher costs, lower quality of execution, etc. We’re ultimately striving for the most cost effective way to execute this project without compromising the quality of experience we’re trying to create. And if you happen to know someone who’s willing to let us borrow some serious equipment for a month, all the better :)
We are planning for a surround sound system if one doesn’t already exist in the space. We considered individual speakers tied to each note, but given the complexities already tied to other parts of this installation, we thought it would be best to keep this part simple, yet impactful. A surround sound system will allow Embeth’s voice to envelop the people within the space, creating an immersive experience that maximizes the impact of the notes.
We’re confident we’ll be able to find a place SOMEWHERE in New York, and the question becomes more about exactly WHERE in New York. Our ideal space would be somewhere with lots of foot traffic that’s easily accessible—we’re hoping the installation will attract not only the person who’s heard about it, but also the passerby who happens to chance upon it. It would also be great if it was a gallery-type space that's 1,000+ square feet. A neutral space with white walls will really allow for the notes to be front and center.
Embeth Davidtz is an actress whose screen roles have included movies such as Schindler's List, Matilda, Junebug and The Amazing Spider-Man. Also a breast cancer survivor, Embeth has spoken publicly about her personal experience and has made it her mission to help educate women about the different resources available to them.
SPACE CRAFT is a design squad consisting of Mike Degen and Jason Tucker that focuses on URL + IRL experiences. In addition to Notes To A Friend, other recent projects include establishing the identity for y-combinator startup Wright Electric and collaborating to produce a video for Eco Share Space.
We’ve created a number of rewards in return for helping us reach our goals. More than anything, your help in spreading the word would mean so much. If you’re not in a position to give, a post, tweet or simply telling somebody you know who might be interested is priceless.
Video: Priscilla Jimenez
Risks and challenges
The risks and challenges associated with a project like this is not so much about whether or not we can pull it off (we can), but whether or not we can pull it off at the level we envision (and we all tend to be OCD perfectionists, or at least that applies to Jackie, Jason and Mike).
Like we mentioned in The Details section above, it really comes down to striking a balance between executing things in a really (cost) effective way without sacrificing the quality of execution. We’ve budgeted for what we feel like is a healthy balance, and if push comes to shove, we’re a pretty resourceful group. Jason and Mike know how much to make anything happen if it involves a computer and/or power tools, and Jackie’s background in architecture has taught her how to do more with less.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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