THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH JULIE PAQUETTE
THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH JULIE PAQUETTE
Started on: 24-01-1995
RJ : Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?
Reply on: 17-02-1995
JP : Since you asked this question I’ve been trying to remember dates. Since I became aware that the network exists I’ve jumped in with both feet and it’s hard for me to remember a time that I wasn’t involved.
I’ve determined that I was introduced to the network in 1991 by ‘arto posto’ in Atlanta, GA (she was in Chicago, IL, USA at the time). I had been looking at posts on bulletin boards on Prodigy, a computer service network, and found the ones on rubber stamps especially interesting. Some of the discussions weren’t, but when I asked a few questions I was immediately drwawn to mail art. In fact, I issued my first mail art call within a few months from a documentation list arto had gotten from A1 Waste Paper in London, that she shared with me. My first call was THE SHOW MUST GO ON and I hung it in the rehearsal space of a theatre I worked with.
I’ve always loved checking the mail (I’ve done arty things to mail since about 1967 when, as a kid, my family moved and I began corresponding with the friends I’d left behind), but when I was receiving mail for THE SHOW MUST GO ON I couldn’t wait to get to the mailbox! I still feel that way.
RJ : You undersign your mail with several aka’s like “ex posto facto”, “Anne Maybe”, etc. Did you use these names before you entered the mail-art network already? What is the story behind the many names?
Reply on : 17-3-1995
JP : I do have a thing for new names, don’t I? No, none of the names I use for mail art are any I’ve used anywhere else. Well, exept for one that was a childhood nickname (I don’t use it for anything anymore and wish I never had!). Each name has meaning for me and I think demonstrates flux in my life. As I got involved with mail art I was also very involved with e-mail and a network of rubber stampers on Prodigy (*P*). Many people there had given themselves mail art names and I found it charming. arto posto struck me as a perfect nickname for a mail artist and when I was doing some reading I ran across the phrase ex post facto. This was me! I’m always late (after the fact = ex post facto) and I liked very much that it had the word post in it. I annonced on *P* that I had finally found my name. I got a responce from Willy Nilly that it sounded good to her, but didn’t I want to add an “o” to “post” in honor of arto posto Yes, I did. She has truly been my mail art mentor and I was delighted to be able to incorporate a little thank you into my name. ex posto facto is the name I’ve used the most in the Eternal Network. Besides all of the sentimental stuff, I find that it’s useful to be sexually ambiguous now and then. I think there has been a certain amount of “good ol’ boy” networking and a name that is not sexspecific can be a good thing in breaking into a bit.
I went through a time that felt very tenuous and uncertain. I became Anne maybe. I got divorced. I became Nobody’s Wife! I became very close to a friend who was also an active mail artist – together we were the Fake Socorro Sisters, Fate and Destiny. When she dropped out of the movement I assumed both identities. (This was an idea JEM and I had that never really went anywhere.)
I don’t know if I will continue with all the different names or not. I was amused by it when I saw Rudi Rubberoid’s odd list and thought it would be fun, but didn’t think I could come up with names I’d like well enough to want to claim. As it turns out, I could probably rename myself almost monthly. Fluxus is with us. Certainly it is evident to me in my little life.
RJ : Could you tell a bit more about that “good ol’ boy” networking. Is there a difference between your mail art contacts with males or females?
Reply on : 31-3-1995
JP : This could be a loaded question…. Very different. And as I type that I think it’s likely that someone somewhere is getting defensive. I want to say right off that because something is different doesn’t mean it’s better or worse. The good ol’ boys only have as much power as we give them. I wanted to be part of the movement in a big way when I was beginning and I thought I had to be in touch with the powers that be. Now I’m feeling much more settled in. The power thing is definitely over-rated.
I’m not sure how much one’s gender has to do with how easy it is to get involved in the network, but I’ve heard both men and women say it’s tough. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Some suggested that it was because my mail art name didn’t tell that I’m female. Since I could see many more active men, I thought they had some control over it all. I now believe that mail art is truly what you do with it. No one has CONTROL. Isn’t that the point? Some people like to think they’re “leaders of the movement” and spend time and words to make it so. They are whatever they perceive themselves to be, as we all are in this eternal network.
I don’t think I’ll get into this topic any further. I value my male and female contacts very much and I’d hate to over-generalize and annoy any of them. I’m not involved with mail art to bicker and fight.
RJ : Since you began in mail-art the amount of mail you get must have been increasing all the time. Are you still able to answer all the things you get in mailbox?
Reply on : 18-4-1995
JP : I believe that SENDERS RECEIVE. Since I like receiving so much I figure I need to send, so getting things out is a priority. I document my Fluxus Bucks project when I accumulate ten participants and that has happened every week and a half to two weeks lately. I try to be especially timely with that documentation so that it doesn’t build up and totally overwelm me. Besides, I’m getting some very interesting things due to that and I want to keep it rolling along. It has really expanded my network in a huge way.
As for the other mail I get, it all gets some sort of response eventually. Sometimes the stuff that I’m most impressed with is hardest for me to respond to. Then my answer can be very slow (I’m waiting for genuine inspiration or something).
RJ : Can you tell a bit more about your Fluxus Bucks. How did you think of this project, how did it start, and how is it developing?
Reply on 28-8-1995
JP : Whew! Quite comprehensive questions, my friend! Since Fluxus Bucks have taken over much of my mail art time, I think about why I’m doing them when I get frustrated that I can’t do something else. Lately I’ve been figuring out a more effecient documentation system that will allow me to keep the record on the computer and hopefully not take so much time to produce and reproduce. Since I generally get about 10 responses a week, I’m doing a Fluxus Bucks documentation weekly. This seems like a lot sometimes, and not nearly enough other times. Documentation seems to take longer all the time because I’ve started writing notes to some (many) of the participants and I want to be able to continue to do that but it can hold me up when I want to get mail out. The responses are coming from all over the network — most of the time I get 6 responses from the USA and 4 from other countries (people in Italy, England, the Netherlands, Mexico, Canada, France, Belgium, Malta, Czech Republic, Korea, Ireland, Uruguay, Japan, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Germany, Ukraine and Finland have sent the bucks home). To date (18 Aug. 1995) I’ve received about 290 responses! Just incredible. I’m thinking I may do a little zine thing on the back of the documentation. This is still an idea more than an actuality so I reserve the right to change my mind!
Ok, your questions. How did I think of this project…hmmmmm. It had a lot to do with my day-to-day money concerns at the time. Let me grab the ol’ journal.
On 27 October 1994 I wrote that the idea of a mail art currency had gotten my attention. “I ought to get a Ray Johnson image on there maybe. Or something Fluxux, DaDa — I want my address on there somewhere, too, but I don’t think it needs to take front and center. I’ve cut 150 bills. My idea is that they need to circulate amongst the Mail Art Community. I want artists to carry them in wallets or purses, doodle on them, add their addresses, send them to other artists and then redeem them with me. Or not.”
On 1 November 1994 I wrote” “Fluxus Bucks, make them show the changes around you, them, etc.”
On 10 November 1994 – “My fluxus buck is happening. They’re rubberizing my buck while I’m not there at Acme. I’ve cut and bundled 150 more (sheets of paper). In lieu of a dollar sign I want a fluxus buck symbol. For Global Mail? — ARTISTS! Tired of worrying about money? Request any amount — it will be filled in Fluxus Bucks. Ongoing project — Documentation and Bucks to all.”
13 November 1994 – “I’ve done 550 Fluxus Bucks. I’m mailing a whole bunch of them out. I’m pretty happy about how they turned out, but when I gave them out at the 3’O clock mail art Choir meeting I got a very subdued reaction. I think they were sort of confused….”
Well, there’s some of the stuff I was thinking when I started mailing Fluxus Bucks. The response I’ve gotten has been so good that it’s really encouraged me – which brings me to the last of your questions” How is it developing?
I had a fantasy as some point early with the Bucks that people would like them well enough that I would need a couple thousand eventually. And that has happened already (there are over 2800 bucks in existance so far). I love the way my network has grown and broadened. I’m consistantly surprised and delighted by the variety, talent, depth and silliness of the people in the network. The work/play I get in my mailbox inspires, distracts and informs me. Fluxus Bucks may come and go, the network just goes on and on and on.
RJ : You probably have heard of the statement “mail art and money don’t mix” which tries to explain that in mail art you shouldn’t ask for (the official) money. What do you think of this statement?
(Via e-mail I got a message from Tim Blackburn (Zetetics) telling me that he asked Julie about the progress of her interview. She told him that she lost the last question, and asked Tim to send me this info by e-mail. So I printed the latest question again and sent it to Julie together with another sample of a finished interview).
Reply on 6-12-1995
(Together with Julie’s answer again some Fluxus Bucks and the documentation-sheets. Also included was a nice gift, a rubberstamp about her Fluxus Bucks project. Julie has sent me before such nice gifts).
JP : I LIKE IT! Money seems to take over in too many areas of life. What you can and can’t afford even determines who some think you are. Even though mail artists are people (and people are the ones who make judgements based on $) I find it delightfully refreshing that for the price of a stamp anyone can enter and participate in an international, eternal network. For me the network has been a warm community of generous, talented & amusing individuals. There’s gossip, romance, controversy, feuds, ART & anything else you might find in a group of intelligent people. We enjoy entertaining each other and ourselves. Fluxus Bucks came about to do that.
Unfortunately, the realities of life are that we need money. I can’t fault people who try to make money in areas related to mail art (rubber stamps, artistamps, zines, etc.) but I think it is important – and sometimes difficult – to avoid taking advantage of the network for personal gain.
An unrelated aside: Fluxus Bucks have been around for a whole year! In that year, I’ve seen over 400 responses to the project & sent out as many replies. Wow! That’s it for now. I gotta run to work and earn some actual currency so I can continue to afford to play in the network…..
RJ : Yes, mail art is an expensive thing to do, and most mail artist I know have always some kind of job of study they do besides it. I have found out that sometimes the things people do besides their mail art is quite different in comparison to the mail art they send out, and sometimes it combines perfectly. How is this for you?
Reply on 3-2-1996
JP : For me mail art is a distraction from the regular day-to-day stuff that threatens to wear me out. I was so enthused about rubber stamps when I was first getting into the mail art thing I went into the fun rubber stamp biz with a partner. It was going o.k. when I sold my half to her, but I needed to get a job with a paycheck. And I did! Working for an actual rubber stamp company where they made business rubber stamps. In a lot of ways this was a very good thing, but it was also something that took a lot of fun out of rubber stamps. But! I learned a lot about the whole process and I’m glad to know it! It may even come in handy in the future.
Anyway – these days I work as a cashier at Bingo for a couple of different charities. In fact, handling all that money – especially the PAPER money sort of inspired Fluxus Bucks. I loved the feel of bundles of paper money! Stil do. Since it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll have bundles of real cash laying around to fondle, well, why not come up with my own? Even better – get my friends in the network to help make these slips of paper valuable. That’s the genesis of the idea, but it’s developed in other ways that have surprised me.
The best: I think I’ve mentioned before how my network has grown by leaps and bounds and while some folks send bucks once or twice and fade away, many others have become good, dear postal friends.
The worst: Since I recirculate the bucks I receive I rarely have enough bucks around to bundle – they go away much faster than they come in – just like real cash.
To get back to your question, I don’t think I’ve got a job that “combines perfectly”, but I manage to blend the two wherever possible.
RJ : To my surprise there is yet another mail artist living in your P.O.Box under the name “Atmospheric Cookie”. What does he/she do there?
Reply on 6-3-1996
JP : Your question about “atmospheric cookie” has an easy answer. I heard the phrase on a weather report & it stuck me funny. The description of pressures & counter pressures that followed reminded me of my life so I “borrowed it” Next?
RJ : Together with your answer you sent me again some fluxus bucks. Thank you. The numbers on the bucks indicate that already lots of them are circulating. You always also send me some of the ones you got back yourself, so you are recycling the bucks again. Are you never tempted to collect the nice ones? Are you a collector of mail art items or are you recycling most you get?
Reply on 15-4-1996
JP : I do get some nice ones! Sometimes I have to keep a buck that speaks to me. Since I originally saw them as ever-recirculating I wasn’t sure how I felt about keeping some. I mentioned this to M.B. Corbett and he told me not to worry about this and to consider the bucks I kept to be my salary. I liked it!
Usually though, I like to recycle. I’m seeing the Fluxus Bucks more and more as a networking tool. When I send out documentation of participants and their addresses I am often introducing mail artists to each other. That’s why I started making notes about what I got from the people sending bucks besides the bucks. Then artists could get an idea of those who were doing things they might be interested in. I often hear from people who have contacted one another using the Fluxus Buck documentation and that is terrific! I didn’t see, ahead of time, that this documentation would be so effective in this way. But it is! As much as I enjoy receiving the bucks themselves, I think the real contribution to the movement might be in the on-going documentation and the way it provides current information on active mail artists to other active mail artists.
Meanwhile the bucks give an opportunity to do some quick (or not so quick) art that generally goes back out into the network flow of things. More and more people are adding their address to the bucks so that sometimes their address will be out there even if they weren’t on the current documentation. I don’t think FB resemble most currencies much at all in the way they’re used but I think they’re every bit as valuable! Yesterday I stamped out 250 more of them – a time consuming project since each buck is stamped at least 4 times – and there are 3850 of them now! I know I’m not the only one saving them because more go out than come back. It’s OK with me (people can do what they want with them once they leave here as far as I’m concerned), but I’m thinking about asking – maybe by issuing some sort of mail art call – for mail artists to tell me how RICH in Fluxus Bucks they are. Arte A la Carte (Joan Coderre) told me early on that she was keeping them & I know that John Held Jr. archives EVERYTHING. While I don’t mind that some people are doing this collecting I’m sure glad so many don’t!! I recently got some of this earliest ones I did (over a year & ½ ago) back an I was interested to see how the bucks have evolved as I stamp more and more of them.
My favorites are bucks that have managed to travel the world and have evidence of the many places they’ve been and the artists they’ve met. I think I’ve mentioned before that this is how I travel for the most part – vicariously through the movement of the bucks.
Your second question is about mail art collection in general – do I save stuff or recycle? Both. When I first got emersed in the mail art magic, everything I got took my breath away. I was so exited and amazed by the whole process that I just couldn’t imagine sending ANY of it away and marvelled at those who did. Lately though, I’m re-thinking that. Practically speaking it’s impossible to save everything without building another room on my house – and I can’t afford to do that unless they’ll let me pay for it with Fluxus Bucks. Also I really like the looks of mail art that a number of mail artists have added to; so more all the time I am recycling my mail art.
RJ : All the mail art I get from you shows no trace of the use of computers in your mail art. Yet you mentioned with your first answer in this interview that you got hooked up to the network through Prodigy. What is a computer for you?
Reply on 18-5-1996
JP : Dear Ruud, I’m in the gymnasium of a Junior High school for my middle son, Sam, to start his basketball game. I’m not really a big sports fan (it’s noisy in here & smells funny) but I like to see Sam play. I meant to bring your latest mail art interview question with me but forgot to. I remember enough to answer, I think you asked about me and the computer. My answer:
My computer was very important in my introduction to the mail art network. I was on-line in the early days of Prodigy and there were a lot of people there interested in mail art. For me the most important contact I made was arto posto. She opened the door to the vastness of the network. Now, however, I’m not on-line at all, and although I miss it occasionally, I find that for the most part I’m more than satisfied with all the great stuff that shows up in my mailbox. I really enjoy the tactile experience that’s part of creating and receiving mail art. The potential magic of the computer doesn’t escape me, though, and I anticipate plunging back into the on-line network again some day (fairly soon). Having had the opportunity to work with arto posto on artistamp sheets on her computer, I look forward to spending time doing that sometime, too. Next Question?
RJ : It seems that your concept of Fluxus Bucks has been taken over by others too. Besides the Fluxus Bucks I produce myself (with your name on it), there are also: the Quid (A1 in England), the Winged Money (Dragonfly in USA), another Fluxus Buck (by Posto del Sol in USA). What do you think of this development?
Reply on 29-6-1996
(Julie’s answer came as a computer print-out. She just entered the internet with the e-mail address Julie8P@aol.com and tried to mail her answer to me. She typed my e-mail address as email@example.com while it actually is firstname.lastname@example.org, so the message bounced back, and the result of that Julie printed out and sent to me).
JP : I think it’s great! There’s some saying about “duplication is the sincerest form of flattery” (I know that’s not exactly it, but you get the idea). That mail artists all over liked the Fluxus buck idea enough to endeavor to do their version of it delights me. There are a whole bunch more than you mentioned and as I write that, I think I’ve already answered this question. (Not part of interview — Did I do that? If so, where were we….????)
Let me know if I’ve got a more current question, ok? Like I said, I can’t find anything. If this IS the current question, I’ll expound more. Bye for now, ex posto facto, the muddleheaded.
(after this part of the e-mail, some ‘headers’ followed to indicate the route the e-mail had taken. It shows that the e-mail was eventually returned, but a copy of course remained at the ‘postmaster’ of the NLnet)
RJ : It is quite interesting that you entered the internet again during this interview. Your latest answer came by snail-mail just because of one single typing-mistake. That is typical computer-communication. A postman would just have brought it anyway. What are your experiences with the current status of the computer-communication?
(I mailed the new question in printed form in an envelope and also sent it to Julie’s new e-mail address. The message bounced too, and a day later I found out that Julie had a new e-mail address. I remailde the complete text with all the addings by the computers again to Julie)
Reply on 2-7-1996 (via e-mail)
JP : I’m finding it overwhelming, very exciting and inspirational all at the same time. Things haven’t changed completely since I was last on line, but there is MORE of everything: people, places to go, things to see and do, things to get (download). There aren’t enough hours in the day to check everything out. It may take more self discipline than I have to get anything else done. And since, like many mail artists, I’m always thinking of MORE stuff I want to do through my mailbox, I’m going to have to work on that discipline thing so I don’t get too lopsided.
RJ : The word MORE is quite interesting. How much time do you actually spend each week now on mail art and the electronic communication?
Reply on 15-7-96 (e-mail)
JP : More each week.
RJ : Could you be more specific?
reply on 28-7-1996
epf: I don’t think so. I don’t keep track of hours and minutes very well. I’ve noticed that a lot of maintenance stuff (laundry, dishes, washing out the bathtub, etc.) goes longer and longer between getting done. What IS getting done is lots of art related tinkering (which seems to create even bigger messes), some mailings of documentation for the Bucks, and now answering e mail. I’ve found, with the help of my friend, arto posto, a group of people interested in discussing mail art (IMAT International Mail Art Thread) on line. I’m not fascinated by every word, but darn close. I’m wondering if this is a distraction from the stuff I’m interested in getting done or a great asset that will help me. Either way it’s how I’m spending a lot of time these days.
RJ : I myself have had e-mails from newcomers to mail art, and I must say that I never get a clear picture of someones work unless I get some snail-mail from that person. The electronic mail for me doesn’t have that much information about the persons I am communicating with. Words and digital graphics are just a fraction of what I can encounter in the traditional snail-mail network, and for the time being I am focussing mainly on the snail-mail still and have the electronic part only for speed and quick communication and spreading text-informations. How is this for you? How much has the electronic mail taken over the snail-mail?
reply on 19-11-1996
JP : I agree wholeheartedly. E-mail and the electronic world seems more suited to information than art for me. I see art when I surf the net, but it’s not a medium I’m comfortable with yet. It COULD happen, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Personally, I love the whole process of receiving mail art in my post office box. I like the look, the feel, the smell. I think I get a much greater sense of who I’m communicating with when I hold the artist’s mail in my hands. One way that the electronic world has intruded on my mail art is that it takes over too much of my time. I know that I make the choice, but sometimes time just slips away when I’m using the computer (kind of like when I do art at times).
FLUXUS BUCKS UPDATE: I’ve been thinking about this all for a long time and I’ve come to a decission about creating and documenting fluxus bucks. I’m done once I reach buck #5000 and participating artist #1000. Both of these numbers are right around the corner so I figure I can move on to other projects. This month marks 2 years of fluxus bucks! I’m thinking I might issue a special series now and then for events or non-happenings, but the amount of documentation is taking too much time for me to do some othet thing I want to do. SOOoo… I guess I’ll move along. many people are making bucks these days. I’m happy to participate with theirs (yours included) and whatever I see of the ones I’ve made.
RJ : Yes, I guess there is always a good moment to end things. Also for this interview with you. We have take almost two years now to do this interview, so unless there is something more you wanted to say, it is time to publish these words and let others read them as well.
(together with my question I sent Julie a print-out of the interview text so far, my latest design of a fluxus-buck value 100,000 and a copy of my report of the travel I did undertake to San Francisco in USA)
reply on 12-12-1996
JP : Hi Ruud! Well, finally the interview is finished, at last! Wow. Thank you for your patience and persistence. Thanks also for the over-view of your SF trip you sent. I hope you are finding time to enjoy some things – you sound so busy!!
RJ : Well, I must admit that I am busy, but I sure do enjoy doing those things that keep me busy. Thanks for the interview Julie, and may the fluxus bucks come your way…….
ex posto facto
GARLAND , TX 75049