The Mail-Interview with Ray Johnson went in a special way. He reacted to the first formal invitation like this above. He also wrote on the backside, which added the dimension:
He sent it in one of his typical enveloppes:
I published the textual version of the interview too, which I will include here as well.This time also inserted the many visuals that make the interview so special:
THE UNFINISHED MAIL-INTERVIEW
WITH RAY JOHNSON.
TAM-PUBLICATIONS TILBURG – NETHERLANDS Nr TAM960134
This is the TEXT-VERSION of the two answers Ray give as part of my interview-project. I am still collecting all kind of information about Ray Johnson (before and/or after his suicide on 13-1-1995).
Started on: 4-11-1994
RUUD : Welcome to this mail-interview. A lot of mail-artists have stopped with sending out their mail into the network, but you seem to keep it up even till today. Is it true that mail-art is more then art, that it is a way of living your life?
(please put your answer on paper any length you choose….)
Reply on: 11-11-1994
(Ray’s answer was written on the original invitation to the project. He reacted to one specific word on the invitation, the word ‘LENGTH’, and he decided which length the answer would be…)
RAY : O.K. I choose 14¼ Inch length. Another answer – Dear Lamonte Young, Happy death day. Please send second question.
(The next question was in the length Ray wanted, and to make it more difficult for him, I typed the next question on dark-red paper on which I indicated the length he choose with a golden pen. Ray wrote again his answer on this paper and returned it to me.)
RUUD : With this length of 14¼ Inch the depth of my questions will change (for better or worse, I don’t know….) What kind of color would you like my questions to be? Not to dark a color for this second question I hope
Reply on : 21-11-1994
RAY : THE MNO QP (mirror view) kind. What about Mimsy Star? She got pinched in the astor bar.
RUUD : Was it a mistake that she got pinched. Was she supposed to be punched. Does she like PUNCH at all?
(Because of the long silence I wondered if the third question arrived, and I sent the following letter to Ray to ask him what was happened. As I found out a few days later, he had committed suicide).
Letter on : 21-01-1995 (I hadn’t heard of his suicide on this date yet!)
Dear Ray Johnson,
After my third question for the MAIL-INTERVIEW in November last year no reaction from you. So either you are busy or you have no time for the interview or you don’t like the idea. My attempt was to get some real views about MAIL-ART from you. If it is in ‘WORDS’ or in the form of ‘COLLAGE’, I don’t mind, but the idea will be that of every interview I start one booklet will be made. Some others who I am interviewing too by mail already expressed their interest in what you would say, and I must admit I still am curious about who you are and what is behind the messages that you send out. But then again, it is healthy to be curious. You will decide how the mail-interview goes, and I will document in this case too. Take care R.J.
Best wishes from another R.J.,
* On January 24th 1995 I received two mail-art pieces from the USA in which I read that Ray Johnson has died. Tim Mancusi wrote on his envelope: “Ray Johnson jumped off a bridge last friday the 13th & killed himself. He was 66, what a shame”. Michael B. Corbett (Tensetendoned) wrote: “I regret to inform you of the tragic drowning death of Ray Johnson on Jan. 13th 1995”.
* On January 24th 1995 I wrote my last letter to Ray, informing him that he will live forever, and I asked him about his new address, how high it ever might be…..
* On January 24th 1995 I received through INTERNET the E-mail magazine from Guy Bleus where it was confirmed too that Ray Johnson died.
From a researcher at the Feigen Gallery, years later, they sent me a colour image of Ray’s third answer. It seems he never came to sending it to me, but here is is anyway, years later:
Later I did a mail-interview with Ray’s fried Mr. Postcard (Norman Solomon). He tried to explain a bit the answers Ray gave from the American perspective.
THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH DOBRICA KAMPERELIC.
Started on: 3-11-1994
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: 29-11-1994
DK : Dear Ruud, if I remind well, my friend Darko Rošulj, visual-poet, literary critic, technical editor in publishing house NOLIT (where I’m working too) gave me in 1978 some m.a. invitations and introduced me with some interesting art-people/alter-artists…. Than, I’ve started to collaborate in/with WEST-EAST, international association for concrete and visual poetry, I found many addresses from alter-artists all over the world and became a mail-artist that time. My first (collective) project/exhibition has been in 1981 at Beograd’s Town Library (where I’ve been working 1976/1977) and was named “ARS AS IDEA”. After this project I’ve been real mail-artist with many m.a. projects, contacts, full-relationships (meetings) etc.. etc..
RJ : Most mail-artists know you best by your magazine “OPEN WORLD” of which you are now preparing Nr. 82. In spite of the economical boycott and crisis situation in Yugoslavia you still managed to keep on publishing this magazine. How important is this magazine for you, and how important is this magazine for the m.a. network?
Reply on : 20-3-1995
(Due to the WAR-situation in Yugoslavia the second question never arrived in Beograd. I found this out when I wrote to Dobrica again and asked him again for his second answer. Dobrica then wrote me that the letter was lost, but he send an open answer that follows up his first answer. I used this reply as his second answer)
DK : When I started with international art-communication in the far seventies, as collaborator of WEST-EAST international association for concrete + visual poetry, I did my best for international understanding and art cooperation, broaden my mind. I’ve done over 20 mail art projects (exhibits, performances, art-actions, radio-network projects, feed-back card projects etc.) and more then 60 foreign guests (performers, mail artists or just artists) from Japan, Holland, Canada, Italy, Germany, Belgium, USA, Switzerland, Norway, Hungary…. Of course, many, many meetings with (former) YU mail artists, cooperative projects under UN sanctions, isolated, frustrated…. And I’m still incarnation of an OPEN WORLD(SIC!) = the title of my m.a. magazine from 1985 (just ten years ago I started with it). Nowadays, in a sense let down, nothing special happened in the network: we/networkers couldn’t change this (walking) fuckin’ world of rich countries (very few) and many, many poor people in Asia, Africa, South America, Europe…. Art institutions are still closed, usually, for mail art. Naughty artists who make it couldn’t explain the essence of it… The most part of people couldn’t understand what we are doing and what we want to do. This is not just clear, better is – communication art and/or network.
As a member of two art associations (fine artists and writers) in my country I have sometimes problems with my mail art activity (its silly activity as my friends/artists and writers understood it). I’ve spent very much money in the passed 15 years…. Why am I still in the mail art network? Well,, because I’m still a dreamer, I’m still believing in OPEN WORLD, I prefer friendship, I like the exchange of good art ideas (materials is usually poor!) and energy…. I’m an utopist, that’s a fact.
Oh, its determined by time and money (any m.a. engagement) into stuffy situation of art-market and “serious” art. Bearing this in mind, I’ll make new bigger mail art projects…. and I am dreaming about a network world trip (just dreaming)… If I’ll realize it I’ll make a new book and finish my activity, probably.
RJ : Even during this war-time in Yugoslavia you continued with you mail-art and did some wonderful projects. Could you tell a bit more about that?
Reply on : 11-4-1995
DK : Thanks. Yes, I did. Out of spite, since 1991 , summer (when Bob Kirkman from Chico/California was my guest) war-time in former Yugoslavia still exists, I did several projects…. 1991/1992. I made 5 solo exhibitions and over 20 performances, installations and rest-actions. In 1992 I also published the book “Art as communication”. In 1993 , under strong embargo situation and UN sanctions v.s. Yugoslavia and fuckin’ blockade, when my existence was in danger, I made next multimedia-art projects (not strict m.a. , but it included m.a. too): “INTERRELATIONSHIPS” , “FLYING-ART OPEN WORLD SHOW” and “BACK THE SMILE ON FACES”. All those international exhibitions + multimedia-art programs (performances, installations, video-art etc.) I realized in extreme hard times. I became a member of ULUS (Serbian Fine Artists Assoc. – section for Expanded Art Media) and UKS (Serbian Writers Assoc.) and my projects (not me!) got some money from the Government of Serbia-Secretary for Culture….. But, it was enough only for travel-pay of our guests (Andrej Tišma, Nenad Bogdanovi, Jaroslav Supek…. mail-artists/networkers), for petrol (in my “FLYING-UP” project) very expensive 1993, for some poor documentation etc. Especially, “FLYING-UP” projects, realized at Museum of Modern Art, was original and special in that time, but…. 1994. I curated “ARTISTS’ FREE ZONES” projects at NUBS gallery and help next exhibitions by prof. Kun Nam Baik (Korea), Almeido M,E, Sousa and MANDRAGORA assoc. (Portugal), prof. Shozo Shimamoto, famous Japanese artist, John Held Jr. (USA) , AU group from Japan…. So, my international art-cooperation never stopped. Since 1991, I had some guests: Bob Kirkman, Angela + Peter Küstermann (Germany), Livia Cases (Italy) and John Held Jr. (USA). Those are all my guests in the past five years. Before war-time I have had more then 50 guests from Japan, USA, Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Hungary, Belgium, etc. My last trip out of Yugoslavia was in 1987 (Italy and Germany). I haven’t enough money for travel, nowadays visa for travelling out of YU is a problem too… but also I haven’t had calls from my friends as before the war-time. And art-cooperation with artists from Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia…. stopped. Yes, we try to renew it (some nice signals are coming from Slovenia and Macedonia) and we have some cooperation with Serbian artists from Banja Luka (Bosnia/Republika Srpska).
So, on the whole, I’m living hard in abnormal situation and my art activity is REALLY the way/solution to stay myself/normal and as modus vivendi – to exist!
RJ : There is now also a new magazine called ARTEFACT, in which you do the mail-art section. What is the idea behind this new magazine?
Reply on : 25-4-1995
DK : Yes, but let me explain something about ARTEFACT. Firstly, I’m editor for Expanded Art Media (this is the title of my Section at Serbian Fine Artists Assoc.) and owners+directors are : Dragan Pavlov (sometimes networker and founder/owner of DEDALUS publishing/small-house), general-editor, Boris Vukovi (who comes from Australia), art director+designer, Pedja Krsmanovi, technical editor/computer etc. and some young people + editors.
ARTEFACT is NOT a typical m.a. zine. ARTEFACT is a magazine for different art/media: literature, film, theatre, music, design….. expanded media (installations, performances, video-art, visual poetry, etc.) including mail-art too. Also its an international art review on 56 pages, not so luxus, but, you can see, on very good paper and with good design. But in Beograd City and Yugoslavia, we have some very good art magazines, such as there are: “NEW MOMENT” , “ETERNA”, “FINE-ART LIFE” , GOLDEN EYE” , “PROJECT-A/r/T” , “BEORAMA”…. compared with ARTFORUM, FLASH ART, HIGH PERFORMANCE, ART in AMERICA etc.
Basic idea of ARTEFACT is to draw attention with real alter-art news and get to know art-people here with alternative artists all over the world (so this magazine is in English too). But also give a chance to artists who haven’t a chance for affirmation into the “big” and famous art-magazines or at exclusive artspaces….. We started with ARTEFACT in January 1995. We have three promotions at nice artspaces with exhibitions (you participated, dear Ruud, too), performances video-art…. and also we introduced the magazine on TV programs, in newspapers, on radio, etc. So, a good start, but we need money and support of artists and real art-lovers all over the world just now!
RJ : The cultural boycott against your country was lifted months ago. Can you already notice any changes? I know from Chuck Welch (Crackerjack Kid) that he is still unable to send you his new book “Eternal Network” from the USA to Yugoslavia just by mail. It was returned to him last month!
Reply on : 16-5-1995
(Together with his answer Dobrica sent his new issue of the ‘Open World magazine’ , number 84)
DK : Just fine question! I’ll be happy when this boycott really stops. At this moment it still exists. Yes, Andrej Tišma told me how Crackerjack Kid’s new book sent to him, me, etc. didn’t arrive but was returned to the USA. But I hope “Artefact’ magazine will travel lucky from Yugoslavia to the USA (to Crackerjack Kid)…. and I can tell you, dear Ruud, how I have had the worst experiences in international art-cooperation and art-communication after 1992. June, after the UN sanctions to YU: firstly many lies about my country and serbian people circulate since 1992. Through the m.a. network too. Than several times I didn’t receive art-materials (or just letters) from my friends/artists. PTT communication with Croatia stopped since 1992, there was a temporary stop with Canada and some other countries too. The booklet ‘OPEN WORLD’ by Steve Perkins (package with 50 issues) I never received it back from him.
But , listen… Bob Kirkman from Chico (USA) wrote me in 1992 how my exhibition there isn’t possible because no artspace would accept anything from Serbian artists and I’m cosmopolit firstly! Bob Kirkman was my guest in july 1991 and made a performance (together with me and miss Jasmina Tabak) at Happy Gallery – Students Cult. Centre in Beograd City + exhibition of small art-objects. That time I gave him art-material from me and he promised an exhibition in the USA….. John Held Jr. made a OPEN WORLD show at his MODERN REALISM gallery in 1993. You too at the TAM Gallery, and I’m really happy and thankful to both of you!
Listen, since 1992 I helped exhibitions by prof. Kun Nam Baik , Manuel Al meida E Sousa + MANDRAGORA group, prof. Shozo Shimamoto, AU group…. besides several group shows / international shows (my projects) at very nice artspaces. So, nothing changed with me and I protected international art-cooperation non-stop.
Mayumi Handa & Shozo Shimamoto helped with exhibition “Embargo Art from Serbia Island” at Tokyo’s METROPOLITAN MUSEUM. This was a show by magazine “CAGE” collaborators. FILIMIR made a 200 meters long canvas in Paris as an anti-embargo-art action (action-painting/street-art action)… Most part of YU Networkers (me too) made various anti-embargo art projects since 1992, but we have had very few invitations for coming out of YU and make art-actions live.
Oh, yes, some friends/artists help me with art-materials (from Spain, Japan, Holland, Italy, USA, Belgium,…..) but some stop with art-communication to me.
Besides that, many YU artists (especially alter-artists) left the country (Katalin Ladik, Marko Stepanov, Pedja Šidjanin, Jusuf Hadifejzovi, Darko Vuli, Zoran Beli, Dragan eravac, etc.) and now live in USA, Holland, Belgium, France, England, Hungary… but, believe it or not, we are doing since 1992 excellent art here and we are very active just in this hard wartime and blockade. It sounds as paradox, but probably it is because our feelings are so strong. And art-spirit!
RJ : What is essential for being a (mail-) artist?
Reply on: 3-6-1995
DK: The old Latin sentence “Ars longa-vita brevis” probably explains the need for art and the essential need to be an artist, to win life and all limits. To be a mail-artist is a question of cosmopolitan feelings, the need for art cooperation, better understanding between different people and cultures…..
But artists’ inner-life, spiritus movens for his activity its a hard question, probably a question for psychologists, art hystorics and sociologists. The fact is that artists see the life different than “normal” people and that they are able to make a fictive life, pictures of life, on special ways. So, what is essential for being an artist is not a simple question.
RJ : When I write to mail-artists in the former (large) Yugoslavia, I always have a problem with talking about the politics behind the war. I sometimes feel I am asked to choose sides, and in a way I think the real truth about the war is difficult to see for all sides (people confronted with the war because they live there, the UN, the people who just sit at home and watch the war on television). Could you help me with explaining what the war is about, and if an artist should get involved with politics? I know it is a difficult question.
Reply on : 20-6-1995
(In the months May and June the problems in Bosnia got larger. Airstrikes of the United Nations in Pale, UN-Hostages taken by the Bosnian Serbs throughout Bosnia. At the moment I receive this answer the last hostages have been released, but the fights around Sarajevo are intensified again because the Bosnian Army now attacks the Bosnian Serbs to break the corridor around Sarajevo).
DK : Yes, it is. But how you can understand all aspects of the war (if I couldn’t?) and essential problems of destruction former Yugoslavia? And who help this horror/bloody war?! First of all, Serbs would like YU unity (NOT ‘big’ SERBIA!) , but rest (Croats, Muslims, Slovenians, Albanians, Macedonians…) wouldn’t like it.
A lovely country destroyed after separation of Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia and we (Serbs and Montenegros) stay in new (small) YU unity. I still feel as Yugoslavian and cosmopolit although the fact that I am a Serb. I need former YU. I need friendship and understanding from ex-YU friends (now our relationships are broken and I am NOT guilty, nothing changed with me, with my feelings!)
Well, central problem, as I understood, is with Serbs out of Serbia. How save those Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia?…. Because most part of Muslims and Croats wouldn’t like Serbs as equal people there. And some Serbs and Croats who accept Alah, different religion from the Turkisch, understand? So, this war is an religion war, war for living spaces (teretories), civil war too. The fear was “Spiritus Movens” for this war.
I am out of actual politics and try to understand this incredible situation on my very special way. I’m a Serb, but also Slovenian, so… as artist I made a lot of things against the war, but also against YU blockade. My installations (named “signals from Balkan ghetto” , “YU blockade-circulus vitiosus” , “Artists’ free zone”….) , performances (“Stepping out from inside” , “Flying-up from Balkan ghetto” , “Get out the dark” , “Destructio unius-generatio alternius”…) , exhibits ( “INTERREALITIONSHIPS” , “FLYING-UP” , “OPNEN WORLD” , “ARTISTS’FREE ZONE” , “BACK THE SMILE ON FACES”….) are full of symbols which explain my feelings into war-situation and YU blockade/embargo. Maybe, you’ll see in the future some of them on video!?
In this fuckin’ war some networkers died/were killed (Keer II/Satan Panonski , Dragan Krii) , some spent some time as YU soldiers (Nenad Boganovi , Aleksandar Jovanovi , Šandor Gogoljak) or Croatian and Bosnian soldiers… I haven’t had news from many friends since 1991. Some left former YU…. So, many things, many bad things happened and we are still frustrated and unhappy. Most part of the YU networkers made excellent performances , shows , installations etc. just during the wartime and its paradox!
But this question is for Darko Vuli, from Sarajevo who lives now in France, or for Ratko Radanovi , from Banja Luka , who is Serbian soldier there in Bosnia.
ps. I prepare a new book “OPEN WORLD CONTEMPORARY-ART STORY” and in this book I will explain many aspects (of art-actions) into wartime….
RJ : A new thing in networking is the use of internet , and the sending of E-mail. In Yugoslavia , during the war-time , not many artists will be able to use this new medium. But, have you thought about the electronic communications? Will the electronic mail-art become more important than the normal mail-art?
Reply on 28-7-1995
(Dobrica’s answer came via Sweden with the help of a friend. By separate mail I also received Dobrica’s latest issue of Open World #85 , with lots of information about meetings and contacts)
DK: Yes, it seems so… But it is nothing fascinating, this is only the question of technology. I’m afraid it could be the future of m.a. communication and I’m an outsider in that case. No, I haven’t computer, fax-machine etc. So, some people from my Section of Expanded Media (Mihailo Risti, prof. dr. Marija Preši) help me sometime with this kind of communication of I use the fax-machine from NOLIT publishing house where I am working.
The same situation is with the rest of the YU mail-artists…. But, 1992, in my project “OPEN WORLD” (international exhibition) I asked networkers to send me fax-messages…. very interesting was the fax-message from Dragan Krii (he died/was killed 1992, latter…) who sent it from Sarajevo, full of political jokes, but also some nazi-symbols etc. about three meters long!
Listen, most important is human-communication and full contacts=meetings! Electronic communication is probably most important for business people and in science or financial/commercial communication….
RJ: In the last years lots of publications have appeared in connection to mail-art. Also you yourself have written a book about it. Are these publications important for the network? Do they always give a good view about what the network is all about?
Reply on 13-8-1995
(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……)
DK : Yes, I think so… those books are really important (“Correspondence art” by Mike Crane, “Eternal Network” by Crackerjack Kid, etc.) My first book “Art as communication”, in any case, didn’t give the best view what the network is all about, but it gives some special answers about various art poetics (and how communication exists in inter + multimedia), but also open question of NEW AGE and future arts. My new book “OPEN WORLD, OPEN MIND – NEW ART STORY” should be a book with complete answers made by artists (Dr. Klaus Groh, Katalin Ladik, Miroljub Todorovi , Scott Mc Leod, Ruggero Maggi, Dr. Ken Friedman, Ilija Šoški etc.) themselves about their art-poetics and activities (Orbit Art, Performance Art, Signaliosm, Amazonic World, Fluxus, Dance Macabre Actions etc.) given through interviews. Also I’d like to explain what’s happened with the network in the last years, besides rest, with describing the special situation of the YU blockade under UN sanctions and restricted art area (RAA)…
Many periodical publications are important too, your m.a. statements are very important, many rest publications who circulate through the network non-stop….. are “bloody-canals” of the NETWORK and heart (essence) is full communication, personal contacts.
My new book should be all ready at the end of 1995 (the price will be 20 US$ of 30 DM) and published by publishing house “DEDALUS” from Beograd with very fresh stories and illustrations…. You, John Held Jr. Angela+ Peter Küsterman, people from my Section for Expanded Art Media and some rest artists are very important people in my new book!
RJ : Well, I will be looking forward seeing your book, but when it is in Yugoslavian language (like your last book) only few networkers will be able to read the texts you write. Is there any chance you will be publishing some english articles too?
Reply on 25-8-1995
DK : Yes, I’ll be glad to see the book till the end of 1995. Always there is a problem with money, especially here during the UN embargo, extremely hard economical situation, abnormal conditions…. So, my first book was in Serbian (we haven’t a YU language!) language and I’m sorry, I haven’t enough money to pay a translator…. and it was also a question of speed (don’t forget, January 1994, we had an inflation of 350,000,000% !… We’ve been absolutely champion of hyperinflation and prices changed two times during the day!)… But, now I haven’t problem with translation, most part of texts are now in English language and some were published (in English) in magazines like ND , Cage , Artefact, Clinch and Transfusion…
RJ : Especially because of these difficult times I would like to thank you very much for this interview. Good luck with your book!
Ustanicka 152 / VII
11000 – BEOGRAD
Ryosuke Cohen is doing the Braincell project since 1985. After 30 years he reached this number 916 already and every 10 days he produces a new one. On the IUOMA platform on Ning we trace all the issues and try to get a more complete view of the project. Have a look at:
Because a large part of the network follows the group we know instantly when a new BrainCell has come out and who particpated on it. Somehow everybody hopes to see number 1000 one of these days.