Slow Mail (Pilot Ride) / Sara Thacher

Commissioned by ZERO1 with support from the James Irvine Foundation

'Slow Mail' combines the dual frontiers of California: the romantic western pre-railroad era and the pioneering early days of the internet (ARPANET). Pack trains relays composed of amateur and professional horsepacking enthusiasts convey and deliver physical letters between Menlo Park and Los Angeles, the points between which the first message was sent over ARPANET. The riders form a relay along the coast with each group riding for two to four days before handing off their mail bags; this mirrors the digital relay that computers use to get emails to their destination.

Before the railroad united the ranches and Missions of what was then known as Alta California, it was indeed a wild and woolly place in a constant stage of self-definition. Similarly, inventions in the late 1960s that allowed different computers to communicate with each other over great distances created a new virtual territory to be settled. Each Slow Mail rider, letter writer, and recipient join the pioneers of ARPAnet to tell the evolving story of our mediated communication and the future of letter writing through participation in a physical journey along the back trails of California.

For the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial, Slow Mail v0.2 will cover the first leg of this journey, delivering letters between Menlo Park and San Jose. In the month leading up to the event, participants will be able to submit letters addressed to anyone in San Jose (or Biennial attendees) through the project website These letters will be printed and carried horseback from Menlo Park to downtown San Jose on Saturday the 15th. The letters will be distributed through a Mail Call event.

September 15, 2012, 11am - 6pm
S. 1st Street (from San Carlos to Reed)
SoFA District, San Jose

Sara Thacher

lives and works in San Francisco, CA

Artist website


Sara Thacher designs and produces interactive experiences that bleed between physical and digital media. Recent projects include ‘The Jejune Institute’ created as part of the collective Nonchalance. This narrative game of real world exploration encouraged participants to explore their neighborhood and in doing so, unravel the threads of a mystery right under their noses. She earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a MFA in Social Practice from the California College of the Arts. Sara has received awards and commissions from institutions including the San Jose ICA, the San Francisco Foundation, Southern Exposure and The Center for Art and Public Life. Her work has been covered by publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bomb Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle and many more.