THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH SVJETLANA MIMICA
Started on: 4-11-1994
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: 17-03-1995
SM : Well, how and when I entered in mail art. It has been during ’89 when I first met (late?) Tihomir Govoskovich, Croat from Vojvodina (ex-Yugoslavia). We met each other casually, via one magazine for meeting new loves. We’ve never become more than friends, but really very good friends. As he knew I draw (in that time, I used ink and pencils in my art and made drawings of various shells, which has been my favorite motive), he gave me good advice (I didn’t think I’m so good!) and – an invitation for a mail art action WEST-EAST in Seattle at CW-Post-AFGN Gallery. I sent materials and waited for a year to receive an answer! The answer came from a young artist-writer Carli Andrechak from Seattle. We had some projects together during ’90 and ’91, but when the war began, we’ve lost the contact. The reasons you know (reasons from her side). I’ve never heard again from her or from Tihomir. I only knew he’s been arrested by Serbian chetriks and (probably, maybe) killed. I plan to stay in mail art all my life, in any situation. Mail art helped me to survive psychically in bad events of the war and gave me beautiful friendships and experiences.
RJ : Can you tell me a bit more about how the mail art contacts changed since the beginning of the war. How did it change things for you?
Reply on : 28-4-1995
SM : At the beginning of the war against Croatia ’91 a lot of mail art contacts have been lost because of the embargo on our frontiers (at the beginning of the war, Serbian Army stopped all mail & trade on the croatian frontiers, so the sacks of mail have been lost forever!). After the liberation of frontiers by Croatian Army, mail fluctuated again. It was sometimes strange and opened enemy-letters from some Serbs (ex-friends) and their sympathizers from abroad. I tried to tell them the truth which I saw with my own eyes and ears, from my own experience! Some of the foreign mail-artists needed a lot of time to understand the truth! Some of them never understood. But, I also met really good people who helped us with food and art-materials from time to time. I can only thank calmly to all who helped and help me!
Prices of the mail get higher, so I can continue my mail-art activity only with help of very good friends in the network and some others who help me to send my private mail (not mail-art). I don’t want to loose good friendship because of the mail-prices! I hope it’d be better if I could go to work abroad. And I hope that old lost contacts will continue again. That we can find a way together for making art and make a mail art international Fellowship (or brotherhood). We can also establish International Association for help to each other. I wrote more about that in my last years issues of the “Light” – review.
RJ : Could you tell a bit more about the magazines that you publish?
Reply on : 15-06-1995
(Between the sending of the third question and receiving the answer to this lots of things happened in Bosnia. The UN bombarded the area Pale near Sarajevo-center after an attack of Bosnian Serbs on Sarajevo. And as a result the Bosnian Serbs took hundreds of UN-observers as hostages. New troops from the UN are flown into Split-airport, to form a ‘rapid response force’ for future events. At the moment I receive the answer most hostages are released, and the extra troops are in Croatia and partly already in Bosnia. Nobody knows what will happen next)
SM : Sorry, I can’t find your third question anymore. Maybe you asked me about my zines. I’m sorry, but I packed my art-materials in case of new bombardments, so I don’t know where it is now.
Well, I started with “Light of the he-Art” in early 90’s and it became more popular during 1991 , during the Serbian attack on Croatia. It’s been a sort of usual mail-art newsletter, with some funny texts , interviews on the streets, poetry and from 1994 with black & white photo’s and little gifts. It goes monthly and is written in English. The other zine, called “Serious Intentions”, has 10 to 20 A4 pages, black & white , texts , photo’s , xeroxes , reports , interviews, etc. It goes since 1992. The first time it was an underground-zine, with half A4 pages. Till 1994 it became A4 paged, with gift, and it is issued every 3 months. I also edit “International Poetry Magazine” once a year, and I am preparing some new publications (Global Art , Emotions , and Obsession). Every of them is some sort of free catalogue of mine of some other art or literature works. They are all made on the computer since 1993. I plan to edit some zines in Italian language too.
RJ : In your “Light of the He-Art” you often interviewed people in the street. You also tried to explain them about mail-art. Have you succeeded in that or is mail-art something only understandable by people who practice it?
Reply on : 28-06-1995
SM: Yes, I always tried to explain to the people, who I interviewed on the streets, what mail art really is. Only few of them (people who worked abroad) knew what I was talking about. The most of all others showed some suspicion. They don’t believe it can function without money, so they refused to collaborate on the exhibitions I gave them instructions “how to do”. I think mail art can be understandable only to people who lived abroad and know “how Europeans live wonderful”. Maybe the most clear answer I received from one young artist last week: “What can you expect here? People live bad, very bad, they haven’t even the everyday food. While lots of them commit suicide, you can’t expect enthusiasm & creativity of young artists, unemployed and with so many existential problems….”! When you haven’ got the food + life, you can’t think about some other “luxury” things…. or maybe you can…. The sense of man is to combat the bad situations and to win them. I think so… and try to live so!
RJ : For most mail-artists it is quite easy to mail out some letters a week. What problems are you facing if you want to mail – for example – a letter to me. Can you just buy a postage stamp and put the envelope in a mail-box (as for most mail-artists in non-war zones it does)?
Reply on 28-7-1995
SM: No, I can’t just buy a stamp and put it in the mail-box. It’s usual if I send letters inside my own country. But is I mail it abroad, I have to bring it, opened to the officer and to explain what I send and why, who i.e. are you. I know they’ll read it when I go out, not in the same post-office, but spies who work only on opening the letters. When I started with mail art, every letter I received has been wildly opened, the same with my letters abroad…. Even now, but only if I write to some new person or some new person writes to me. I receive opened letter or something misses…. stamp or some invitation…. I can’t color envelopes, if I do it, post-office wouldn’t receive it, they don’t like to receive stickered (with stickers) letters and if I put a rubber stamp they treat it as an official letter. The same control exist on the phone-lines (they are listened, but not always) or if I gave a small announce in the local papers – for friendship, someone called me and asked strange things – they wanted to know (they always act as foreigners, but with very bad english!) if I am interested in export- import job, drug abuse or simply sex…. It was very wildly. Then it stopped. I receive all letters closed now, because they know all addresses I correspond with. I know they’ll read it. It was in a local paper ’91 , but somebody negated it; the reaction of people has been justiciable right against such a practice!
And postal rates grow higher from time to time. We have to pay extra taxes for every letter abroad (not for inside my country). That’s all…. I can’t send letters so often because of that, especially to non-European countries. Very few officers know what IRC is! Nobody understands mail-art. “What is this?” they always ask, and when I explain, they don’t understand. Sending packages outside the country is very complicated, with custom duties, a lot of questions etc. It is not easy to be a mail-artist here, but even a hobbyist of correspondence. You are promptly under suspicion! Now all employees in the local post-office know me well and they are polite, but if I’d go to some other office… the procedures will be strong again.
RJ : How do you explain mail-art to somebody that doesn’t know it. Could you tell me what you think mail-art is all about?
(Between the receiving of the answer and the sending of the next question the war started again in Croatia. This time the Croatian army attacked the Kraijina-area, the part of Croatia that was occupied by Bosnian Serbs. But which part of land belongs to whom is difficult to say in this former Yugoslavia……)
Reply on 28-8-1995
SM : For me, mail art is an avant-garde process in art between artists who want to communicate and make actions together. When I try to explain “what’s it all about”, people always ask me: “But, is it payable?” When I explain, they seem dissapointed and try to undertake me. They always say that I do it in the wind and even say that I am “mad” in their eyes. “Silly lady who make it without money!”. I try to explain mail art with the help of the texts you and Ruggero Maggi wrote. And I always see people look puzzled as if they see lies. They expect more money possibilities, and when there are none, they treat me as a guilty person! (When I want to give mail-art invitations to someone the first question is: “How it can work without money? You do believe I’ll give my works moneyless and without salary? Are you stupid?” I had extremely ugly situations and I feel ashamed for the mentality in my country, especially in my town. Money is God to Split’s people, and I’m a black sheep between them.
RJ : Sending out mail for you is now difficult. I also remember that once your mail-box even was stolen. Does all the mail sent to you arrive. Do you have any indication what is lost?
Reply on 12-9-1995
(Between the sending of the latest question and receiving of Svjetlana’s answer lots of things happened in Bosnia. The UN and the NAVO started bombing targets near Sarajevo to try to convince the Bosnian Serbs to move their larger weapons from the ‘safe zone’, till today with no success. In Geneva the talks about a peace-settlement are progressing but if peace is near, nobody knows….)
SM : Yes, sending out mail is now difficult for me. See the reasons in my earlier answers! Once or twice my mail box was stolen, too. Some letters never arrive or arrived opened (visible to touch) or go to the customs where I have to pay enormous amount of money only “for seeing inside” (they tell so – inspection of the inside costs!). And nobody asks you, do you agree with it. The most of the mail from persons they already know arrives to me. The new persons are under suspicion for them and their letters are always opened or destructed or just don’t come! I have indications what is lost only if people write me 2nd or 3rd time and say what they’ve sent. Sometimes postmen robbed the letters or money. I know such cases. Fortunately, our postman is good. So, the robber is somebody else. Who? Sometimes they (the robbers) are newcomers or children (teenagers from bandit’s local groups). I can’t indicate what misses to me if the person doesn’t write me again. Or if I write to somebody new and he doesn’t answer, I can think 2 solutions: 1) he/she wrote, but it didn’t come, 2) he/she didn’t reply. What’s the truth?
Sometimes, I know some countries from where the letters don’t arrive well (or they’re missed and lost) – some from Belgium or from South Italy. It’s very often. Other countries are O.K.. Russia, Romania and Hungary are always problem. I never received any documentation or letter from these countries. Documentations from the USA are often stolen, because they are nice and interesting!
RJ : You also started now to work on a new zine called “Vidik”. What is this magazine about?
Reply on 7-10-1995
SM: Yes, I also started now to work on a new zine called “Vidik” (the View). What is the magazine about? First I have to say that “Vidik” is NOT a mail art magazine, it is not mine, private fanzine, but a state’s literature, poetry and art review, with strong judgement made by a group of croatian (local) writers, poets and painters, including me, as a director of Redaction. It’d go 6 times in a year and prints work from anonymous young artists – from 15 to 20 years old max. We hope to find people that are interested to collaborate (they’d be payed) in the local highschools and universities, as through the newspapers and TV-net too. Foreign authors are also welcomed (I’ll make translations of texts and poetry into croatian language, texts and poetry needed, but b/w photo’s are also welcome. When you’d send us works, send your CV too, thank you! We are preparing the first issue at the moment.
(between the receiving of Svjetlana’s answer and the sending out of my next question, a temporary stop has come to the fighting in Bosnia, but still the situation is unclear. The war might intensify, or real peace might become a reality.)
RJ : After you written your last answer, the situation in Bosnia has changed a lot. What is the news you get about the situation in your own country? I watch the local news (Dutch, German and English news) and see the CNN-news channel. Am I getting a good view about the situation from that?
Reply on 6-11-95
SM: The situation in Bosnia and Croatia now. I think the whole situation is getting better (peace?), but some places in Croatia are still occupied (Vukovar, Banaiya) and it’s needed to liberate them. Bosnia is still hell on Earth. When will it be changed? The NATO-troops will be welcomed. Our papers don’t talk so much about Bosnia! This week is ELECTION-week! Today I’ll go to vote. I don’t expect any changes at the top. All politicians only promise to change the bad inner situation (unemployment etc.), some of them want to stop the import of foreign goods (like in socialism). I can only hope they won’t win! We need good, new state, not an eastern closed country like before! I don’t know if CNN has right or not. I don’t have the time to watch TV!
RJ : The mail art network is changing rapidly now because some mail artists are changing their communication-forms and start using the electronic mail (e-mail) with the help of computers and computer-networks. Some do it because it is cheaper for them, but the letters become digital messages on a computer-screen. What do you think of these developments?
Reply on 25-11-1995
SM: I don’t believe that the new kinds of E-mail and copy computer art will replace mail art. These new kinds of “art movements” (for me) kills the sense of really valuable mail art works. Letter and art work remain the only existing valuable thing in mail art. Personal work on the paper or canvas or… anything but not an electronic, cold light of PC! I use the PC not for art (I haven’t modem), copy art from mailing zines, but I don’t feel it as a real art! It’s a way of communication for very few persons who have PC’s and fax. What about others? Mail art isn’t society of a “few artists” from the richest countries, but of the artists from all over the world. E-art work in the Museum? Oh, no! It’s anti-artistic! The cold world of cyberpunk. I mean, it’s similar to it from some point of view.
RJ : Well, I guess it is time to end this interview now. The peace seems nearer then ever with the signing of the peace-treaty in USA, and I hope the coming time things will get better in all parts of the former Yugoslavia. I want to thank you for this interview!
Marina Getaldicha, 5