iuoma.org – Interested in Mail-Art?

welcome to the International Union of Mail-Artists. This Blog gives you information and links to all activities undertaken by Ruud Janssen, who started with Mail-Art in 1980 and is still active.

More Drawings in 2015

SCAN1155 SCAN1156 SCAN1162 SCAN1186

In the last years I have been working on a large set of drawings. Of each one I also make colour copies and use them as writing paper for outgoing mail-art, but the plan is to exhibit the set one day on a special occasion.

A theme that keeps me busy is the interaction of the Digital World and the Humans. What can we do, and how do people change because of the digital world. Some elements come back in each drawing, but they too evolve as I start new ones. The collection is already hundreds large, so it promisses to be somethings special for sure

I also sent one to the MoMa, and promptly it was placed on their website (see: http://momalibrary.tumblr.com/image/121271762959), so that is funny to see too.

If you are interested in seeing more drawings, a large set is published on my artist portfolio at artwanted. You can even leave comments there if you like. Have a look at:

Besides the drawings there is a larger overview of what kind of art I produce. You can also see how mail-art and art influence eachother……

mail-interview with Mark Bloch – USA

Ruud Janssen with Mark Bloch – USA

MarkBloch

TAM Mail-Interview Project
(WWW Version)

Started on: 12-02-1995
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: 25-02-95 (internet)
MB: I first did mail art in 1968 when I did a postage stamp of a kid in my 6th grade class who used to scream a lot. He had some sort of personality disorder and as a 12 year old, I thought this was very amusing so I immortalized him with a stamp. I first used rubber stamps of Popeye, the cartoon character when I was 5 years old or so. My first use of the mail for artistic use as an “adult” was around 1976-1977 when I bought some used rubber stamps from a little shop in Kent Ohio where I was in college. They had belonged to the members of DEVO, I think.

I began to send mail art to people on postcards without knowing what mail art was. I watercolored and drew on the cards, too.I became interested in rubberstamps that way. That led me to The Rubber Stamp Album by 2 women. I think one of them was named Joni Miller but I’m not sure. Maybe one was named Lowry? Anyway, that book had an article about mail art in it. I realized that I was not the only one doing it. I got Ed Higgins’ address out of it and sent him some mail art. That was after I had graduated college and had moved to California. 1978. Also at this time, I came across a little poster for a mail art show stapled to a tree with Bill Gaglione’s address on it. I sent him something. The Poster was put there by the Westside Agent Michael Mollett, a mailartist from LA who later became a friend.

All of this happened around the same time. I also saw the work of Ray Johnson in that Rubber Stamp Album for the first time. It made an impression on me (no pun intended). But I didn’t know I could write to Ray myself. So I didn’t start with him until 1980 or so. Ed Higgins also started me with Ed Golik Golikov, a early member of the New York Correspondence School living in Denver Colorado. I also saw a big rubber stamp art exhibition by Stephen Vincent Benes in Santa Monica California. Come to think of it, I think that is where I heard about the Rubber Stamp Album. Yeah, I went to the show because I was using stamps and I saw a mention in a newspaper, when I visited the gallery I heard about the book and from the book I heard about mail art.

By late 78 I decided to make my activities official. I contacted my friend Kim Kristensen in Ohio, back where I used to live, and asked him if he wanted to be PAN Midwest. He said OK. Michael Heaton, another guy I had been sending art to through the mail after my graduation from college moved to New York and he became PAN East. I lived in Laguna Beach California and became PAN West.

Within a year I was in touch with people all over the world. Shozo Shimamoto and Rysuke Cohen sent some of their first mail art at that time to me. I also received things from Booster Clevellini who was actually Buster Cleveland but at the time I got him and Cavellini mixed up so I couldn’t understand what all the hype was about when Cavellini made his fist US visit in 1980 for Interdada 80.

Anyway, after Cavellini’s visit I became very much involved with mail art. Seeing some of the people in person, including my earliest correspondent EF Higgins, helped me to understand the network. I began to use the name PAN myself and my friends in Ohio and New York continued to be correspondents but by then ceased using the PAN name. POSTAL ART NETWORK was what Pan stood for, but soon it became clear that the bigger postal art network was something I should participate in and using the name PAN for myself was more interesting, just as Higgins used Doo Dah and Gaglione used Dadaland. So that is how I became Pan. A few years later I started to notice similarities between myself and the greek goat god Pan but that is another story.

RJ: How did things develop after you started with mail-art and meeting mail- artists. How did you get involved in the communication with the use of computers?

Reply on: 11-3-95 (internet)
MB: Things developed rapidly. I was very inspired by the Inter-dada 80 festival. I met Cavellini for the first time. Also Buster Cleveland, Ed Higgins, as I said above, as well as Bill Gaglione and other “2nd generation” mail artists. I also had the pleasure of meeting Al Hansen (Hansen died shortly after Mark Bloch wrote this – ed.) , who is a very important art historical figure who has avoided the spotlight due to his extreme views of the art marketplace. Those very views are what attracted me to him in the first place. I knew immediately I was dealing with “the genuine article.” He was in John Cage’s composition class at the New School with Dick Higgins and the other pre-fluxists and was an important contributor to the first happenings. In fact, he was doing them before they were called that. So I sat spellbound as he and Cavellini drew portraits of each other in a Pasadena coffee house. I also joked around with him, asking him for his autograph on a very tiny piece of paper. He wrote “Alan Kaprow” folded it up and handed it back to me. I was amazed that I could interact with a person like Hansen who was a legend to me.

I realized then that the mail art network would allow me to collaborate with people of Hansen’s stature if I wanted to. I was also very impressed with the other mail artists and the spirit of dada that engulfed the various events I attended. I recall Josine Starrells Janko, the daughter of dada Marcel Janko, gave a lecture at the Venice (California) jail. She said the mail artists were not as dada as her father’s generation of dada and she may have been right. But I didn’t care. I was very happy to be dealing with people who KNEW about dada. Up until that point, I had only read about such things and was ridiculed and labeled a trouble maker when I pursued such activity at college, before I had heard of mail art.

Now here were a whole lot of people who had studied dada as I had, who valued it’s anarchistic spirit and were taking actions to promote it in a new context. I was thrilled.

I began to correspond with as many people as I could and tried to meet them if they were local. I was always interested in meeting people in a way that reflected the chaos and fun of mail art so I proposed bizarre ways of getting together with people. I met correspondents Jim Reva and Maia Norman at Laguna Beach with a theme of MEAT (meat equals meet.) I brought along an entourage of friends and kids and a giant cow with an actual cow head locked in a paper maché head. They were waiting for me at the designated time and place (1pm July 6, 1980) dressed as butchers with meat spread about them on the sidewalk. We have been friends ever since. A videotape was made of the event and its aftermath.

I also corresponded with a local guy called the LA Obscurist Club. Somehow we started corresponding about mice and then cat and mouse and finally I proposed a Cat And Mouse game to meet. He wouldn’t do it but we did exchange some pretty wild objects at each others’ doorsteps and through the mail. Eventually we met at a mail art show.

Those were the early days of mail art meetings for me, also with Jerry Dreva; David Zack , who lived in LA then. Eventually I met a lot of the people I corresponded with, using various degrees of fanfare. But I always enjoyed the experience of meeting people in person. Things changed drastically in 1982 when I moved from LA to New York. I saw a poster that said Cavellini was going to be in New York. I called the number and ended up speaking on the phone to Buster Cleveland. He said I could perform at the gig. So I was part of a bill that included many of the people I had been corresponding with. One of them was Carlo Pittore. I will never forget our initial meeting, he was yelling to me from the bottom of a stairwell and his big smile and warm greetings were like a Welcome Home to the network. I experienced comraderie from that point on that did not exist in the LA mail art community. Or at least I did not feel a part of it.

Carlo introduced me to John Evans, John Jacob, Ray Johnson, Steve Random, Jean Brown, Zona (Bernard Banville) and many other mail artists. Foreigners came to visit like Arno Arts, Jürgen Olbrich, HR Fricker, Henryk Gajewsky, Sonja Van Der Burg, Günther Ruch. We had all sorts of parties and events for each of them. I always made a special point of having a one-to-one face-to-face meeting with people at least once. I value those collaborative meetings a great deal. It began to seem obvious at that time that the future of mail art was going to be in those meetings. I began a series of interviews with mail artists myself at that time -around 83- for The Last Mail Art Show. I felt that contact between those of us in the network was very important. I knew then what were later formalized in Tourism and in the onslaught of mail art writings that followed.

As for computers, I knew that was an eventuality, too. In the first edition of PANMAG (Panmag Number 1, there had been two others before it- Panmags 391 and 451. And there was also a Number 2 of 391 making it even more confusing. But anyway…) I made a sticker that said that the next logical step for mail art was computers- “But who ever said mail artists were logical?” I’m not sure of the exact date of that sticker but it was the first time computers were mentioned in mail art, to my knowledge.

Anyway, such things are not important because someone else always did something “first.” But the point is that I was very interested in computers from the start. I should have mentioned that the stickers I made were done with a computer.

In 1977, around the time I started with rubber stamps, I made my first work of computer art. It wasn’t made with a computer at all. It was a canvas with all sorts of information about computers collaged on it, including a portrait of me made by a computer. The type of thing you could have made at a shopping mall at that time for a very high price. I couldn’t resist having one made of my image and cutting it out for collages.

Actually I forgot to mention that I also used that same image to advertise a show I was having at my college. It was called 11-7-77 to 11-11-77. I stenciled those dates onto the computer image and stuck it everywhere on the Kent State University campus. My name did not appear, just numbers. Oh yes, I also used my social security number for my name.

So yes, I was very much interested in computers from before I ever heard of mail art. I took a class in FORTRAN in 1975. I wish I had stuck with it because now I wish I were a programmer.

In the mid eighties I used a graphic computer to create drawings of me as Pan. I also used a different computer to make random lines on a piece of vellum by attaching a pen to a moving computerized table.

In 1990, after a brief experiment with the WELL in California, I started Panscan on the Echo Teleconferencing BBS. Panscan was a link between the Internet and the mail art net. Unfortunately not enough mail artists had computers then so it took a new direction, away from mail art. We did things like create a collaborative poem or tell stories about how we got our taste or discussed the Art Strike and The Word Strike or talk about Dada and Duchamp as well as mail art.

Now (1995) more mail artists have computers so I am hoping I can continue with my original plan of a more concrete link between the two media. Also I should mention that a few mail artists did access Panscan once or twice- Charles François, Guy Bleus, CrackerJack Kid- and many others saw it on their visits to New York- John Held and Xexoxial Endarchy and Mark Pawson.

I think the future for mail art and computers is bright. Especially now that I am in the process of creating a PANSCAN HOME PAGE on the World Wide Web.

RJ: In the time you were doing the Panscan I was experimenting with the digital TAM-Bulletin (as a BBS-service). It seems the time wasn’t right then as you mentioned. Also the costs for data-communication was then a problem. Now, in 1995, the sending of this question to you by E-mail via INTERNET costs me half the price a normal envelope with the question would cost…. But the difference is that I send you the question in digital form. Just ASCII, and no color, no smell, no touch of my hand that you can trace. Is the electronic communication ready for artists?

Reply on: 18-03-1995
MB: You say …. just ASCII, and no color, no smell, no touch of my hand that you can trace. Is the electronic communication ready for artists?

I say- YES YES YES. I think you have given a good case in favor of it with your question. The electronic communication IS ready because there is no color, no smell, no handprints! The Internet needs artists!

Most of the home pages I’ve seen are pretty lame. There is very little inspired work going on. In fact, in ALL spheres of influence on our planet there is very little inspired work going on- not just Internet or World Wide Web but also in the Art Market and in the political arena and in the business arena and YOU NAME IT. The world needs artists!

The business world is perhaps the MOST creative area of human endeavor right now. Isn’t that ironic? They have come up with the most creative solutions in the computer area and even in the problem of what to do about Eastern Europe. The businessmen lead the way (after the mail artists, of course, we were there first, as usual). Sure they fuck stuff up too, but I look at the planet and what it needs and it needs so much and I see a big gap that artists need to fill. So yes, the answer is YES. There IS room for artists on the Net, it is imperative.

You spoke of ASCII. I pride myself on the fact that I use ASCII in my work. I am only now -in 1995- getting a high speed modem. Up until now -for 7 years- I have used a 1200 baud modem. I like that! It is cheap and easy to use- not just for rich people in the USA but for anyone anywhere. A cheap computer and a modem can be pretty inexpensive. The phone bills are another problem but if we are clever we can also overcome that obstacle too.

I prefer ASCII, very low tech computer communications. Why? Because then we have to rely on the written word. That requires a person goes into their INTERNAL network of experiences and feelings and thoughts and COMMUNICATE through the written word. I like that.

I am working on an autobiographical novel. It contains no pictures. But with 184,020 words I have communicated most of what has happened to me and how I feel about it fits in a 1052 kilobyte file. I can put it on a floppy disc and send it to you or just include it in this letter and e mail it to you. You’ll read all about the colors and smells and experiences that are my life in great detail.

I have never believed that being an artist meant being a visual artist. Though I also see opportunities for visual artists in computers.

RJ: One of the things I find difficult with the electronic communication is the archiving-part. My mail from the P.O.Box I can put in boxes, but somehow archiving the text-files and the graphic files is more difficult because it is connected to the changing hardware and software as well. How do you archive your mail-art? (both the snail as the electronic mail)

Reply on: 25-03-95 (Internet)
MB: Well, now you’ve hit on something interesting because my archive is completely unmanageable! The hard mail (snail mail) used to be organized – I think it was completely perfect for 15 minutes in 1985 or so- but now it is EVERYWHERE and completely UNorganized. I actually paid a guy to come in and work on it with me in the mid-eighties and that is when things got good. I set up a system and he implemented it.

Everything was separated by size. There was basically the postcards, the letter size envelopes, the larger envelopes and the big envelopes and then the packages, I believe. Within those categories it was set up according to countries and states (for the US) and then within those categories alphabetical by person’s name. Not their real name but the one they used. That system worked ok for a awhile and I plan to put everything in that order eventually but for 10 years it has just piled up chronologically in cardboard boxes.

Especially the past 6 years I have been on Word Strike and Ex Post Facto, Retroactive Art Strike and so I haven’t answered but 5 or 6 pieces of mail in all that time. So all the mail goes into piles by WHEN it was reviewed. To be answered and sorted later. Of course I will probably never answer most of it. But I would like to. I still receive a lot of mail, believe it or not, and I am thankful for it.

So mostly we are talking about a big file cabinet filled with organized mail art, some boxes filled with organized mail art. There are also 4 big boxes that I call the Last Mail Art Show. They contain pieces I selected in 1984 that I wanted to use for the catalogue to my show of that name (that never got made.)

The rest is just chaos.

Also- I made an agreement to give whatever I don’t want to the Kent State University Special Collections Library in Ohio, where I went to college. They have a very nice collection of all kinds of manuscripts there and I am honored that they want to preserve any mail art I want to give them.

They also have the collection of a New York mail artist named Tom Wirth who died a few years ago. Tom was a member of the New York Correspondence School with Ray Johnson in the 60s. His collection of correspondence ended up in Kent which is wonderful because between his archive and mine, they have a very thorough collection mail art from the early 60s thru to the present.

So I occasionally get it together to send them some boxes of mail art that I have looked through. I go through the boxes and pull out all postcards, which go into a huge box I have. (It used to be a box that a mail box was bought in!) I also pull out the artistamps. They go in a special place. So do the show catalogues and projects. Then I save any personal correspondence with friends or family. And anything I just happen to like. Those items go into the Pantheon and will be categorized as I mentioned above some day. The rest I send off to Kent.

I also have a huge pile of xeroxes over here. I make copies of almost anything hand made that I have ever sent out so it is quite a pile. Maybe 4 or 5 feet tall. I also keep copies of letters I wrote on my computer on disc.

That brings us to the electronic side of things. I have been saving everything electronically since I got my computer in 87 or so. It is all on floppy discs and organized in some general categories but generally, this is also chaos. It needs to be looked at.

I do have some organization. There are files called Letters To People and most of the letters are there. There are lists of everything I ever sent out and to whom all in one folder. (also somewhere are similar lists scribbled down before I ever got the computer). Then there is Echo.

Ever since 1990 when I got on Echo, the BBS I use and where my Panscan is located, I have saved every piece of e mail I ever got. It is in hundreds of files downloaded into my computer. It is a mess. Perhaps a PANdora’s box I will never open. I don’t really care anymore but it may come in handy some day so I save them. Space is cheap on disc. I also have archives of things I’ve written on Echo’s other conferences. Stuff about philosophy, love, being a man, psychology, culture, tv, movies etc. I save those and would like to use them some day to make a book or something.

All of it is semi-organized. None of it is organized to my satisfaction. I wish I had a lot of space and a lot of time and a lot of money

RJ: Well, time. In Computerland everything goes fast. Diskettes grow old and get useless (magnetic information doesn’t lasts that long), the messages on INTERNET get distorted and aren’t always as they originally were planned (The messages as you send them to me are accompanied by lots of strange and wonderful computer-poetry, but I select the ASCII I need for the interview only). The Gigabytes of info I myself have on diskettes will be useless if I don’t make backups every few years and keep all the hardware I need for it. I am a bit pessimistic about archiving all the electronic information and therefore still prefer that paper. Electronic information for me is like electricity. It is useful, and it transforms in many forms. Guy Bleus has started his Electronic Archive. How should such an Electronic Archive look like?

Reply on : 8-4-1995 (Internet)
MB: It should look like this

(This is the complete file as it came in via internet. I only adjusted the layout a bit)

PANSCAN
Item 1 (127) Ground Rules For Panscan (YOU MUST READ THIS)
Item 2 ( 67) What is Panscan?
Item 12 ( 50) Ideas for New Projects We Can Do On Panscan To Make Life more exciting.
Item 121 (127) Post-Art Events, Panscan Events, Best Laid Plans, etc. PAN-Cal
Item 308 (178) Panscan: The Eulogy, The Funeral, & The Vigil
Item 345 ( 50) The Golden Age of Panscan: Memory or Myth?
Item 354 ( 49) Panscan Pride: The Few, The Proud, The Bold
Item 355 ( 60) Panscan Improvement Item
Item 336 (227) Panman apology item
Item 339 ( 70) Fall 1992 Postal Art Event
MAIL ART, MAIL, SELF-PUBLISHING
Item 4 (135) Postal Art History
Item 5 (156) HOW TO Item
Item 8 (172) The Art Strike
Item 9 (247) The Meaning of the Word ART Join the Word Strike 1991-1993
Item 18 ( 48) Japanese Mail Artists Network Run Across Europe
Item 27 ( 22) Panscan Express: WISH YOU WERE HERE
Item 40 ( 75) CAVELLINI 1914-2014
Item 41 (132) Self-Publishing and the Sub-Modern tradition
Item 42 ( 41) Pan Pals In Eastern Europe
Item 55 (109) RubberRubberRubber – RubberRubberRubber
Item 95 ( 82) Chain Letters
Item 102 ( 61) Postage Stamps / Artistamps
Item 104 ( 68) (maga)ZINES (pronounced “zeens”)
Item 116 ( 24) Reflux Project
Item 125 ( 6) 1992 Networker Congress
Item 165 ( 2) Virgin Mail Artist
Item 166 ( 1) INCH BY INCH : MAIL ART PROJECT.
Item 167 ( 1) EAST/WEST NET-LINK.
Item 256 (250) The Junk Mail Tally
Item 263 ( 4) YAWN the art strike magazine
Item 269 (432) Elvis Gets a Stamp!
Item 273 (150) FAX ART RESPONSE/March, 1992
Item 321 ( 43) NC92 – Electronic Mail Art Event
Item 322 (127) stuff I heard about Fact Sheet Five
Item 347 ( 39) MORE Things I’ve Hears and Thought about Factsheet Five!
ONGOING PROJECTS
Item 6 (172) Discussion of Postal Art Shows and Projects (See also #13)
Item 13 ( 11) Postal Art Shows and Projects List
Item 15 (823) E Poem II
Item 16 ( 38) Contribute to the Calendar
Item 17 ( 57) Looking Glass
Item 20 (148) Textual Art: found or created
Item 24 (219) ASCII_ART
Item 25 (935) The E Mail Poem- an on-line experiment
Item 34 (120) TALES FROM ECONIA THE INTERACTIVE NOVEL
Item 35 (101) ArtsWire
Item 43 ( 30) VT-100 art
Item 48 ( 78) Deranged Dictator Action Game
Item 51 ( 67) Arithmetic
Item 54 ( 45) Project with Kids
Item 98 (106) Fascinating conversation
Item 99 (199) Say Something *Dangerous*
Item 100 (105) Top 100 Item
Item 129 (465) Currency Event
Item 141 (232) The analogue computer
Item 142 (158) Remote Control Object Maker
Item 143 (124) Virtual Theater!
Item 144 ( 65) Palindromes
Item 145 ( 29) Limericks
Item 153 ( 43) Echo Exhibition
Item 155 ( 90) Superzoom… an Echo collaboration
Item 158 (161) Evolution vs. Deterioration: An Experiential Workshop
Item 164 ( 14) Experimental Theatre
Item 268 (487) Intersection of Scientific Ashrams
Item 276 (204) Hyperpanscan Hypercard Hyperstack
Item 288 (371) the name of the item is…….FUCK CONFORMITY !!!!!
Item 291 ( 21) Rapper’s Delite!
Item 317 ( 39) Poems on Paintings
Item 350 ( 54) Midwinter Improvisation
Item 352 ( 19) CA Agrippa – raw material, parodies, commentary

Item 70 ( 1) Explanation of the next 19 items
Item 71 ( 29) Monday
Item 72 ( 19) Tuesday
Item 73 ( 21) Wednesday
Item 74 ( 21) Thursday
Item 75 ( 30) Friday
Item 76 ( 20) Saturday
Item 77 ( 21) Sunday
Item 78 ( 7) January
Item 79 ( 6) February
Item 80 ( 7) March
Item 81 ( 6) April
Item 82 ( 7) May
Item 83 ( 7) June
Item 84 ( 6) July
Item 85 ( 7) August
Item 86 ( 6) September
Item 87 ( 6) October
Item 88 ( 7) November
Item 89 ( 8) December
Item 90 ( 58) Discussion of the last 19 items
HISTORICAL FIGURES
Item 38 ( 78) Before Dada, Dada, Surrealism, After Surrealism
Item 123 ( 81) Henry Miller and Anais Nin
Item 146 ( 36) Death and the Single Artist
Item 147 ( 86) Wittgenstein
Item 154 ( 56) Charlotte Moorman
Item 244 (601) Name Dropping
Item 338 (189) Dylan
Item 344 (117) DADA< DUCHAMP< CAGE< FLUXUS
POST-ART THEORY
Item 7 (151) Networking Theories
Item 57 (503) Artists and Suffering
Item 106 (220) Democracy
Item 108 ( 53) Technical Proficiency
Item 109 (412) Critique The Critics
Item 114 (361) Post-Modernism
Item 115 (367) Art and Terrorism
Item 117 ( 62) Concerning the Spiritual In Art
Item 122 (213) Gift giving (including letter writing)
Item 126 ( 51) Is the avant garde dead?
Item 127 (217) Design: Graphic, Industrial, Experimental, Annoying
Item 136 (286) What is entertainment
Item 138 ( 86) Computer art, Thinking and Doing
Item 139 (145) Gnawing, Nibbling, Biting, Chewing theFat on Taste
Item 157 (176) Post-post-modernism: Refreshing new thoughts from now people
Item 163 (224) Death The Final Frontier
Item 169 (300) Intellectual Property
Item 248 ( 61) Taboos.
Item 259 (332) Miss OB 1991’s Narrrative Item
Item 289 ( 43) Playworld
Item 323 ( 44) Hypertext/Hypermedia
Item 335 (107) Cheesey vs, Campy
Item 346 ( 85) CYBERcide
Item 349 ( 41) Negativland and U2 and Copyright
Item 353 ( 80) “Masterpieces”– Pro and Con
Item 362 ( 4) Patriotism
LANGUAGE
Item 10 (158) Computers, On Line Communications, Mail Art, Language
Item 26 ( 76) History and the Big Lie
Item 28 (127) Pseudonyms, Impersonations, Fictional (?) Characters
Item 160 (222) Language Is A Virus From Outer Space
Item 168 (363) Amy B.’s Foucault Item
Item 227 (210) The Museum of Annoying Slogans
Item 231 ( 56) Word
Item 267 (113) Childhood Textuality Voice Literary Supplement
SENSES
Item 53 ( 77) The Soundscape
Item 212 (150) Sense of Smell
Item 252 ( 10) Sense of Touch
Item 258 (194) Impairments/ DisabilitiesQuestions/Discussion
PHILOSOPHY
Item 66 (139) Life’s Little Lessons
Item 91 (187) The Water will Change to Cherry Wine
Item 97 (234) Information Overload
Item 151 (252) Pretty toenails
THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF EVERYDAY LIFE
Item 156 (189) Your philosophy of life
Item 170 (326) Philosophy and Nausea
Item 254 (101) The Sine Wave Theory of Life
Item 255 ( 49) Pet Philosophies
Item 270 (212) Want to have a Philosophy Conference on ECHO?
Item 316 ( 19) thought for the day
Item 327 (247) KARMA
Item 328 (309) Truth or Consequences
Item 334 (134) Mind Body Duality
SPIRTUALITY
Item 150 (967) GOD: Defense Mechanism, Helpful Construct, or Just a Close Personal Friend
Item 172 ( 19) Mysticism In Your Lifetime
Item 257 ( 26) The Tao Te Ching — The Way
Item 271 (379) Son Of God
Item 275 (195) I have been thinking about the difference between Christianity and Zen
Item 274 (250) Epiphany
Item 324 (162) Meditation
Item 325 (194) Feng Shui – the art of placement
Item 358 ( 40) Sex and Spirituality
POLITICS
Item 33 (280) The NEA, the intolerant, freedom of speech and you
Item 67 (247) People Without Addresses (The Homeless)
Item 69 (200) CYBERPAN World Brain
Item 93 ( 70) Utopia
Item 94 (110) Dystopia
Item 113 (502) Masturbation in the 21st Century
Item 307 (150) Male feminists. Female sexists. Genderless politics??
Item 310 ( 34) Depiction of Women on Television
Item 311 ( 59) Depiction of Men on TV
Item 341 ( 99) Your political orientation
Item 351 (219) Multiculturalism
Item 360 ( 44) Is homosexuality a culture? – “Subitem” from #351
SELF-HELL
Item 52 (608) No Mask
Item 96 (258) Famous Some Day
Item 130 (140) ANGER
Item 133 (101) Galleria of the Fractured Fragmentos
Item 149 (247) Loneliness: Taboo
Item 171 ( 48) why am i so serious?
Item 173 (138) Your biggest fear
Item 246 ( 42) Favorite Suffering
Item 249 (177) narcissism — or why i am the most important character in the world
Item 261 ( 59) OBSESSion
Item 264 (434) Success
Item 280 (191) Responsibility
Item 304 (220) Thin Skin Thick Skin
Item 312 (250) Procrastination
Item 313 (255) BOREDOM (yawn)
Item 319 ( 71) Cleanliness, Neatness, Clutter and Filth
AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Item 3 (976) Introductions
Item 29 (359) I Hate Everything
Item 30 ( 60) I am dancing at the feet of my lord all is bliss all is bliss
Item 31 (986) Childhood Memories
Item 32 (144) My Old Thoughts
Item 37 ( 83) Not Quite and The Job That Got Away
Item 50 (235) Safe and restful sleep sleep sleep
Item 62 (211) Most Memorable Happening In Your Life
Item 101 ( 70) REUNIONS
Item 105 (231) Nicknames and How They Got That Way
Item 118 (295) Did your parents destroy your life?
Item 131 (389) Book(s) I bought today
Item 162 (172) Home
Item 243 (113) What’s your major?
Item 251 (238) Your Area Of Expertise
Item 262 ( 14) a fragmento funeral
Item 277 (221) Nightmare Jobs from Hell
Item 281 (315) I had this amazing dream last night….
Item 282 ( 38) Retirement, savings, and other assorted ugly grown-up things..
Item 283 (331) You and your father
Item 284 (464) You and your mother
Item 285 ( 16) You and Your Mother-in-Law
Item 287 (114) Your ex-wife/husband
Item 292 ( 53) How did your parents meet
Item 306 (110) One Year Sabbatical – What Would YOU Do?
Item 315 (417) What was the best thing you saw today?
Item 343 (171) Transforming Arsinoe
OPINION
Item 56 (208) House Beautiful?
Item 58 ( 43) The Most Beautiful Thing In Outer Space
Item 59 (193) Most beautiful thing on Planet Earth
Item 60 (149) Most Unpleasant Thing on Planet Earth
Item 61 (196) Most Likely Explanation For the Creation of the Universe
Item 63 ( 78) Greatest Artwork of All Time
Item 64 (169) Most Boring Artist Of All Time
Item 107 (213) The difference between Mark Kostabi and Jenny Holzer
Item 134 ( 65) What Does The Future Hold for Art?
Item 135 (199) PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THE FUTURE WILL BRING
Item 159 (192) Remember 1991?
Item 326 (249) Jeff Koons’ dream
Item 357 ( 55) Should Ugly People Dance?
Item 359 ( 50) My Favorite Work of Art
Item 337 ( 8) Quotes about “art
Item 361 ( 28) Citizen Kane
MYTHOLOGY
Item 47 (140) Pan The Nature God
Item 92 (194) Heroes and Heroines and Acts of Heroism
Item 103 ( 13) Myths, Mythology, Legends and Archetypes
Item 124 (135) Temple of Disembodied Tele-Love
Item 207 ( 24) Other Deities and Other Demons
Item 240 ( 65) vampires
Item 340 (124) The Unpretentious Wine Item
Item 348 (106) Goddess of the Month Club
ECHO
Item 237 ( 20) ECHO Classics
Item 253 (589) The Sociology of Echo
Item 331 ( 39) TOPIC D R I F T
Item 356 ( 61) The History Of Echo in Under 1000 Postings
THE MR. HAPPY YEARS
Item 296 (275) Mr. Happy and Mr. Smith on trial
Item 297 ( 35) SEXUAL FANTASIES ABOUT PANMAN
Item 298 ( 45) YES YOU LIKE THIS!!!!!!!!!!
Item 299 ( 5) SMEGMA
Item 302 (112) Mallarme, Mr. Happy, Four letter words, etc… (a serious disc)
Item 293 ( 78) Hunting!
Item 294 ( 33) PANSCAN CRAPPER!!
Item 295 ( 56) BORDERLINE: crime, love, satan, art, joy
YOUR HOST
Item 49 ( 21) Pan’s Birthday- The on-Line celebration.
Item 132 ( 67) Help The Panman
Item 137 ( 37) Panmans Mail Bin
Item 265 ( 33) Descriptions of Panman
RIDICULOUS QUESTIONS
Item 174 ( 27) Questionairre guaranteed to annoy and delight
Item 188 ( 40) mental image
Item 190 ( 74) Amusement ride?
Item 197 ( 56) Taste in Your mouth
Item 236 ( 27) Favorite hour of the day
Item 238 ( 30) Left or Right?
Item 239 ( 52) Your favorite lipid
Item 245 ( 21) Favorite Bodily Discharge
Item 247 ( 22) Your favorite caucus command
Item 250 ( 42) Icky Food Combos
That was the set up of my Panscan Computer Conference as of February 93 It has grown since then and I’ll tell you rest some other time. Basically I think an Electronic Archive will work best when it is organized and easy to use.

RJ: Dear Mark Bloch: On April 8th I received your last answer to the interview project. I sent the next question in a large envelope to your P.O. Box, but it seems it didn’t arrive, or that you haven’t found the time to answer it (maybe because of your BIG UN-project. Here I send you the question again….

With the electronic communication things can get out of control rapidly. If your message is interesting and lots of people react to it, how do you deal with answering it all? I believe that at the moment you are mostly communicating by computer and hardly answer any snail-mail? (I’ll send this question by snail-mail to see if you still collect your mail at the P.O.Box….)

Reply on: 14-8-1995
MB: Well, Ruud, the answer to your “lots of people” question is in the “it seems it didn’t arrive” introduction! Yeah, you see I often DON’T answer my mail anymore- both the snail mail and the Internet mail. I would like to. And I intend to. But what I have learned in my 5 year Ex Post Facto Art Strike (1990-95) and the Word Strike (1991-1995) is that if you don’t answer your mail IT REALLY ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD. Sure, I’ve missed opportunities and I’m sure I’ve pissed some people off or just confused them or made them wonder about me… and for that I am sorry… but I’ve taken the time for MYSELF these past few years and gotten some interesting answers to some questions that plague all of us.

Namely, that one quality correspondence is better than 1000 superficial correspondences. I used to try to answer everything and (HERE IS THE ANSWER I THINK YOU WERE LOOKING FOR) that meant sitting down with an idea, making a postcard or 8 1/2 x 11 inch page or PANMAG issue and then mailing it out to hundreds of people all at once. That included rubber stamping them all the same more or less, maybe jotting down a short note or two, addressing them very quickly, buying a bunch of stamps and licking them all at once until my mouth tasted like turpentine and slapping them into a mail box. The responses would then pour in- hundreds of letters out equals thousands of letters in- and then I’d do it again. It got me nowhere.

I met a lot of interesting people and established myself as a mail artist in the network but no one really knew who I was or what I do until I met them in person. THEN I was able to give a fuller picture of myself the way you get when you are in a one-on-one correspondence with someone. You write letters. You ask and answer questions. You talk about your daily life.

Both ways of interacting are valuable but for me the mass mailing got tiresome after 15 years in the network. I felt like the Publishers Clearinghouse which is an American company that sends out millions of junk mailings to everyone with an address. That is not art activity- that is busywork and though it was interesting for a while, it got less interesting over the years.I stopped with the mail in 1990 after mailing out THE LAST WORD, my contribution to the ART STRIKE literature and propaganda and only maintained a few mail relationships. One was with Ray Johnson. I continued to mail him stuff on a daily basis and now that he is dead I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to really devote myself to our friendship in a way that would have been impossible if he was one of a thousand correspondents.

I also kept up my local interactions during this time on Echo a local BBS in New York where my Pascan conference resides.

Now with Listserve on the Internet I am back into corresponding with thousands again. It has it’s place but it is not as rewarding as the slow relationships I’ve built over the past five years with my wife, my new baby Simon, Ray Johnson, and also people like you via the Internet and Fa Ga Ga Ga a mail artist from Ohio whom I have met in person on many occasions face to face in the past five years because he comes to New York often and I go to Ohio from time to time.

But if corresponding with thousands is something that interests a person, it is easy enough: all you have to do is get a table and a rubberstamp and some postage stamps and make a thousand xeroxes of whatever you want and subscribe to Ryosuke Cohen’s Brain Cell or Ashley Parker Owen’s Global Mail. There is no shortage of mindless busywork to do. Some people do this almost as a profession and have become very famous without ever having an original thought! But not Cohen and Owens.They know who they are.

It’s easy and it’s fun and it is a beautiful way to avoid ever having to face yourself. PS there is one other way to do it – the best of both worlds as I have done. Sit quietly doing nothing for 5 years and then take the rest of your life to send each person a long letter. I guess that’s my plan for now.

Here ya go.

RJ: Well, I must say I appreciate these personal answers very much. In a way I am doing the same as you, with these mail-interviews I get to know some mail-artists quite good and on the other hand I neglect the non-personal mail I still get in by the dozens in my P.O. Box. In your last answer you also mentioned the building up of a relation with Ray Johnson. Your e-mail message about his death I would like to include in the printed version of this interview. How was your relationship with Ray?

Reply on 8-2-1996 (Internet)
MB: We had a pretty cool relationship. We’d call each other up on the phone about twice a month. Sometimes less but usually more. He would call and ask for mail artist’s phone numbers or addresses. Or to see if I’d gotten this or that catalogue or letter. I’d call him just to chat or to joke or to ask if he’d seen some book or article about Duchamp.

I think we had a similar idea about mail art. We were both interested in it but we also mocked it a bit. As he told me one day “Mail Art is an industry.” I think it’s true. It got a bit too large for it’s own good at some point in the 80’s. Or maybe just too serious for its own good. But Ray I both like to joke so we would joke about mail art. We also would joke about Marcel Duchamp and his last project, The Etant Donnes, and about all sorts of stuff.

We used to talk a lot about TV. We both enjoyed working with the TV on in the background so we would watching the same shows- not on purpose. But often it would be- “hey did you see so and so?” and of course, both of us had. So we would talk about a show or a film or an actor or a scene or whatever. I remember he enjoyed the Fashion series they had on PBS. We also both sat mesmerized by the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Debacle which was an American political scandal/confirmation hearing for a guy nominated for the Supreme Court. Too hard to explain. But there was a real wonderful cast of characters on that. A guy named Doggett Ray and I both couldn’t believe. And a black woman I enjoyed watching very much. I remember Ray said “Float her down the Nile!” and I made a piece of art about her as a Nefertiti-like statue afterwards.

That is how our conversations went. They were very free-form, very lighthearted and fun. Kind of making puerile jokes about all sorts of intellectual subjects. And finding profound synchronicities in things like stupid made-for-TV movies.

Ray loved to make fun of Arsenio Hall, a stupid talk show host. I think we were both equally repulsed and fascinated by the constant stream of mindless entertainment. I miss talking to him.

I used to write down a lot of the things Ray said in our calls. It started out that I would just jot down something he said- a name he dropped or whatever. Someone I’d never heard of.To look up afterwards. But as time went on I began to write down everything he said. I can write quite fast from over 20 years of journal-writing so I’d make notes and piece them together after I hung up. Now that he’s dead I am so glad I did that. I look through some of the things he said and find whole new worlds to explore. He was always recommending books to read. I am glad now I can go back and read them. Or look up people he mentioned. I’ve met a lot of them since his death quite by accident. I run into people and we talk about Ray and then I go home and look them up in my Ray data base and sure enough, there they are. He mentioned everyone! I like to theorize that he was a bridge between people and now that he’s dead- jumping off a bridge- we are left to make the connections ourselves. At the same time, there are so many things I wish I could ask him now. I asked him just before he died if I could do a video interview with him and he seemed excited by the idea. I’m sorry we never did it.

I think Ray and I understood each other. We communicated in weird non-verbal verbal Taoist talk show code. I enjoyed sending him mail art. He’d send me a lot too. I’d like to gather it all up at some point. I have a lot of it collected here but there are still dozens and dozens of envelopes in my archive that I need to find eventually.

I really think he decided on his death many years ago so I would like to find them all and look for clues. Plus I would just like to have them around because I miss Ray as a friend and a mentor.

He helped me a lot. He introduced me to lots of wonderful people. He used to constantly be filling in little gaps in my knowledge. Huge gaps, really. Ray was the type of person I could call up and ask any question of. He’d gladly respond if he was in the right mood. If he was not in the right mood he’d say “I don’t know” or “Who cares?” or answer with a riddle. But the answers he gave always lead me in the right direction.

Most of our conversations were like long free associating poems that started somewhere and ended nowhere. They’d begin with an excuse to call and then meander all over the place, taking weird turns with every pun and obscure reference. We both liked puns and we both enjoyed TV and pop culture. I should say that he LOVED the TV show Twin Peaks and so did I. He told me once he thought it was the best show ever on TV. If you really want to know what our friendship was like, watch that show. It sort of flopped along like that…

RJ: Well, the show was here on Dutch Television too, but at that time I wasn’t watching that much television. So I will watch out for it when it comes back again, or when I see something on video. I want to thank you for this interview Mark, and I hope we’ll stay in contact.

– END –
APPENDIX
E-MAIL MESSAGE ABOUT RAY JOHNSONS DEATH
PINE 3.90 TEKST VAN BERICHT Postvak: INKOMEND Bericht INTERNET

Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 16:24:28 -0500
From: markb@echonyc.com
To: tam@dds.nl
Subject: Ruud Jannsen Ray Johnson say 50 times fast
<> Panman- 02-FEB-95 16:24 – markb@echonyc

Ray Johnson 1927-1995
This time it’s for real
I’m sorry to announce that Ray Johnson, the founder of the New YorkCorrespondance School and a man who playfully announced his own death manytimes, died for real this weekend.

He drowned during a visit to Sag Harbor, New York. He was pulled from the water at12:35pm Saturday afternoon, January 14, 1995. He was fully clothed- in a typicaloutfit for him- levi’s, a wool sweater, a levi jacket and a wind breaker. He was lastseen around 7pm Friday night after checking into the Barron’s Cove Inn in SagHarbor, near the end of Long Island, NY. Sag Harbor is on the north shore of LongIsland, about a two hour drive from his home in Locust Valley, a journey he appearsto have made in order to do some drawings at the estate of Jackson Pollock andLee Krasner.

The weather was unusually mild for this time of year. Ray was fond of the water. Heoften took walks along the shore at Oyster Bay near his home. He was also prone towalking out on piers and docks. There were several near the area where he wasfound on Saturday. He told me on the phone recently “I’m going to do my exercises,”that he was “working on a washboard stomach” by doing “rowing exercises on thebeach with rocks.” And that he would “walk with rocks” as weights and that he was”feeling very fit.”

Ray turned 67 years old on the 16th of October. He was going strong, remarkably fitfor a man of that age. He ate no meat, didn’t drink, smoke or partake of recreationaldrugs. He worked from morning until night, often with the television on in thebackground. As usual, he was still making up new incarnations of hisCorresponDANCE School, the latest one I had heard of being the “Taoist Pop ArtSchool.” He had taken up photography in recent years and took daily walks wherehe would make photos. I also noticed that only weeks ago he had finally retired therubber stamp with his return address on it that he had used for years in favor of anew one. I had meant to ask him about that.

Born in 1927 in Detroit Michigan, Ray Johnson’s first experiences using the mail asa medium for art have been documented as early as 1943 in a correspondence withhis friend Arthur Secunda. In the late 40’s- early 50’s (?) he attended theexperimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina where he studied withJoseph Albers and Buckminister Fuller among others. He has influenced thousandsof people, from other Black Mountain faculty like John Cage and Willem and ElaineDeKooning to his contemporaries like Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, JasperJohns and the Fluxus group (whom) he met when he moved to New York in the 50’s)to an entire generation of younger artists who called him “the granddaddy of mailart.” History may also eventually see Ray Johnson as the first Pop artist. Hisminimalist collages using the images of James Dean and Elvis pre-date AndyWarhol’s and most of his contemporaries by several years. In addition to makingelegant collages, which he called ‘moticos,” Ray hosted many happenings andevents at various locations around Manhattan in the 1960’s. These actions dreweveryone in the art world and started the cross-pollenation of personalities thatbecame his Correspondence School. He would send things to friends and strangersalike, asking them to add to them and send them on to another person, often usinghis unique brand of intuitive word play as his guide. Some of this activity isdocumented in The Paper Snake published by Dick Higgins’ Something Else Press.He has been called “the most famous unknown artist in the world.”

Ray lived on Suffolk Street on the Lower East Side until 1968 when he was mugged-around the same time- if not the same day- that his friend Andy Warhhol was shotby Valerie Solanas. He decided to leave the city and his friends artist RichardLippold and collector Arturo Schwartz reportedly were instrumental in his moving to”the Pink House” on 7th Street in Locust Valley, from which he never moved. Heworked there, almost hermit-like with the exception of of his voracious appetite forphone calls and correspondence, mysteriously and prolifically for over 25 years.

Many people wanted to show his work but he prefered his quiet admiration of thesage Lao Tse. His last major show was at the Nassau County Museum of Art in themid-eighties and a gallery show in the 90’s in Philadelphia of his “A Book AboutModern Art.” A catalogue raissonne’ was in the works. He had recently done one ofhis informal non-performances which he called “nothings” at a gallery in LongIsland. He told me in one of our last phone calls, “Will you come to my show atSandra Gering in January? I’m doing a half a nothing. I can’t decide whether to do itin the first half or the second half.”

Many of us who know each other in the art world and its fringes have that pleasurebecause of Ray Johnson. As the extent of his influence on 20th century art and”letters” continues to be uncovered, we will surely miss Ray Johnson, the man. Inspite of his Taoist fondness of nothing, Ray was really something.

January 15, 1995

Reproduced with the permission of
TAM
Further reproduction without written consent of
Ruud Janssen and the Artist is prohibited.
Mail-artist: Mark Bloch, PO Box 1500, NY, NY USA 10009
E-mail Mark Bloch – The Panman
Interviewer: Ruud Janssen – TAM, P.O.Box 1055, 4801 BB Breda, HOLLAND

update 16-6-2015

The first 35 mail-interviews are now published on this blog. It means that thet are available again. The goal is to have them all here, so the information is available.  Through the search option you can find it easy. Also Google will soon pick up, and will guide you to tose outer corners too.

The websits of the old IUOMA.ORG domain was becoming old-fashioned, and because it was all typed by hand, it became impossible to alter and update. So I moved to the new tool in blog form, and will publish the main informatyions just hear with links to the other corners where my work and activities can he found.

mail-interview with Klaus Groh – Germany

This interview was done in 1995 by Ruud Janssen.

THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH KLAUS GROH. (5)

(A large part of the interview was done by fax)

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: 9-11-1994

KG: I discovered the Network idea of Correspondence-Art in 1967 in San Francisco (USA) when I was looking for material for my doctoral thesis at Dada-Post-Dada- and human art activities. Art, distributed by the normal Postal-System really was fascinating for me. I suddenly was deep involved with that great idea. Later I found out, that this kind of publishing art was so important for artists, working in depressed countries – East Europe and South America.

RJ : What mail-art means to an artist is quite a personal view of the artist. Does, what mail-art means to you, differs a lot from what you think mail-art means to an artist in these ‘depressed countries’ as you call them?

Reply on: 18-11-1994

KG: Yes of course. Mail art just is the way how to distribute art results. Artists is former depressed countries only had this channel to bring their works out of their countries. The postal system in normative rules seldom was controlled, also there was just a small possibility that the controlling official did understand the deep background of a lot of mail art products. A personal view of art is the personal art, but to transport this personal view is another story. So the importance of mail art just is the relative open kind of transporting art worldwide. Mail art is no – ism !

RJ : What does NO-ISM mean? Is it the same as NEO-ISM for you, or do you mean that mail-art just can’t be seen as an art-movement or group?
Reply on: 22-11-94

KG: No-ism in my convinced opinion means, MAIL-ART never will become a special ART-STYLE. MA just is a medium to transport ART or was a super-welcome medium to transport art in depressed countries from that time when the iron curtain still was closed! MA you can compare with any other media like camera or brush. All old and new fixed ART STYLES or …ISMS can be transported by the postal person to person communication. So MA too! And of course many single persons & groups are involved in that easy system. With MA really everybody can be an artist, but -you can see- with big big differences in Quality! , because there are principles of art in any way!

RJ : This differences in quality is obviously there. Can the quality of mail-art be judged by anybody else then the receiver? Is mail-art understandable for a ‘non-mailartist’ ?
Reply on : 26-11-1994

KG: If you say ART – No! But if you only say Mail art – Yes! Do you see the difference? As said before, Mail art (like Erotic Art) never will become a special style of art in the Art History! And if you mean Mail art , of course, everybody is able to write and to read letters and all other postal communication possibilities! So everybody can become also a Mail Artist but just a few also can become Artists!

RJ : Yes, I see the difference. You talk about “all other postal communication possibilities”. You probably know about E-mail and the possibilities it might brings. Will the digitalization of communication-forms change this mail-art, or will it just be ‘another network in the world of networks’?

(like the previous question I sent this question by my FAX-modem to the FAX-machine of KLaus Groh)

Reply on : 30-11-1994

KG: Ok, I think we have to go back a little. The beginning of MA included one very important point: the personal individual touch, a human sign, the intimity of communication. You remember – Person to Person, activities in art! (Just using the welcome medium of direct contacts!) And all these – very important part beside the art results, CREATIVITY! – , all these will got lost by using the E-mail. The electronic Communication has only one survival content: The SPEED! Look how fast I get your answer! But it comes from a machine, ONLY COPIES! You have the original. Mail Art always are personal ORIGINALS! I hope there will start another personal NETWORK!! And I hope, the real consequence of MA art could become the visual & concrete Poetry by MAIL, that means the small site and easy distribution. Digitalization of MA will be a very poor variation of the roots.

RJ : But doesn’t digitalization bring many new possibilities. Isn’t the computer just a new tool artists have to get used too. In business it is used to make COPIES, but an artist can use it to create an ORIGINAL PIECE.

(To give an example, I don’t print my texts on paper and than ‘feed’ it to a FAX-machine to make a xerox at distance. I use the computer to put my thoughts into words in a digital form, and then send this digital words with the aid of a computer and modem to the analog machine, that the FAX is. The only printed version there is, is the FAX-paper that comes out of your machine. And if there is a bad line, the result is the distorted FAX you received).

Reply on : 3-12-1994

KG: Dear Ruud, of course yes, you are right. But that is not mail-art. Use a new word FAX-art / Digit-art / Copy-art or whatever you want. The original idea/content/aim of MA is the personal touch, person to person, transported by the postal international system.

RJ : O.K., lets stick to the original idea’s and aims of mail-art, the things sent by mail. The visual poem you included with your last answer couldn’t be sent in a digital way, and I’m sure that that won’t be possible for many years to come (teleporting still is fiction). Have you always been interested so much in visual poetry?

Reply on : 7-12-1994

KG: Yes, I did. Working the Alphabet & with words and parts of words and letters are treasure with highest graphical values. And because the size could be very small MA is predestinated for such kinds of artistic expressions. If you remember my very first MA-works you’ll find visual poems from the beginning. So also future will be.

RJ : In your visual poetry you use sometimes a lot of stamping. I recently read you statement “Wer stempelt braucht nicht zu schreiben” (who stamps doesn’t has to write) which you wrote January 1976. Can you tell me a bit more about the importance of stamping in your mail-art work nowadays.

Reply on : 14-12-1994

KG: Stamping is the only “original-reproduction” of a hand-made starting project. The hand-made (hand-cut) rubber stamp is a reproduction nearest to an original. Remember that I said to the last human touch in Art-Productions! So if you write by cutting it into a rubber-stamp you always reproduce the original writing by stamping. That’s what I mean. “TRY TO TRY” is a similar thought

RJ : Could you explain the thought behind “TRY TO TRY”. It seems that “to try” is important to you as I remember another thought of you which was “TRY = LIFE”

Reply on : 28-12-1994 and on 11-1-1995

KG: To try is the permanent decision in all action of life. The human decision should not only be an animal self-reaction, it should be accompanied by thinking about all consequences and about all alternatives. So mostly there is to each human act an alternative act with similar matching situations. So all activities in everybody’s life is a permanent decision, that means permanent TRY to TRY so the consequence is this idea comes to the result TRY = LIFE! So human existence is a permanent decision to try the next step!

All activities in everybodies life is the permanent trial to try, to reach the always best for individual existence. The moment in each second you always have to decide whether you do it or you do it not. The result always is totally open always with millions of possibilities, everywhere. Each step, each movement, each act, everything is in the moment of doing totally open. When it is done there is mostly no return. And from each step you have to decide again – and then again & again. That is life! So, I am sure you have a new understanding view of my main sentence TRY to TRY and also the other sentence TRY = LIFE

RJ : What is your next step in connection to mail-art?

Reply on 12-1-1995

KG: I think, – I told you in parts-, just exchanging postal pieces is not enough to communicate. Mail art has a very important place in artistic activities – special for former depressed countries. Now, these must be started with completely new artistic fields! So, let’s think about what could be possible. Human existence should be in the center for ever! So we all have to try to start again with new QUALITIES in producing things whatever it should be. The new medias (FAX, Electronic, computer, satellite connections, etc. etc.) must include again any kind of human touch! So my idea, my next step, could be again new forms of visual & concrete Poetry , Collages with all printed medias , Sounds with understandable contents , communication with serious feedbacks , TRY MORE! Go on asking.

RJ : How do you achieve that TRY MORE doesn’t result in duplicating the same things over and over; that TRY to TRY result in trying to do something without being able to make progress? Or is it that the artist is the person who will always proceed in learning and discovering?

Reply on : 20-1-1995

KG: TRY = Life! So real life always is progress! Always the next in life, accompanied by millions of tryings (tests!) whether so or so (!). And, of course you’re completely right: the artist, all creative people are predestinated to proceed, that is human life! So progress (improvements) is very possible by permanent tryings and discovering; all is open, what you find is new and determines the next future. Not only in art, ==> in all kinds of creative existence. “Whoever is creative – lives!” (“Wer kreativ ist, lebt!”)

RJ : When I think again about words like predestination, progress, life and trying, I get these philosophical thoughts. Why progress, why trying, what is this predestination? Is the answer an individual one, or it there a predestination for everybody in a larger concept. Have you ever thought about that?

Reply on : 31-1-95

KG: The answer concerning progression, future life, life at all – not predestination! – is not a personal problem, it is a human aim, a human content, a human necessary! So -I said- try doing, thinking and also laughing is an ability, that makes the difference between human and animal beings. The whole history of human existence is based on progress in all fields of possibilities. That there are also bad results, that is the risk of human existence, that is human at all too! Of course, I thought about that in so many situations! Art only is a very small part of that all!

RJ : How important is this art to you? Is it just a small part of your life or are the people that are called artists just the people where the ‘art-part’ of their life is a bit larger then the average?

Reply on : 9-2-1995

KG: Yes, you are right, artists, musicians, poets, writers, they all are more sensitive getting outside world impressions and at the same time, they have the ability to express these feelings, their impressions in their media. Just that is the difference to the other people. Because everybody has the same eyes to see, ears to hear, hands with brain to write, but only a few – the creative ones – can handle with what they feel, hear, mention, etc. For me personal art is the most important field in my social environment, art or artistic doing in all possibilities, help me to live – so remember: Try is life! Mondriaan once said, if everybody will be artists, the world will be ok at all. Because active sensitive feeling with doing is life in art, is life!

RJ : On the envelope you send your reply in, you wrote: “Ray Johnson’s death touched me very deep. He was the Moses of mail art. We never should forget him!” Were you ever in contact with him? What did you learn from him?

Reply on : 16-2-1995

KG: Yes, but not person by person. 1972 I had to stay for three days in New York. I had a meeting – making an interview for my doctoral thesis with George Maciunas (Father of the Fluxus dreams) -with some friends. Mail Art was just starting to exist. I had a 10 minutes phone call with Ray and deeply was impressed about what he already said about Mail Art. The name Mail Art does not exist. His word for that wonderful mailing communication was correspondence Art and he wrote not correspondence but correspondance. It should become a game, a happy DANCE , in contact with the other players of that game the international touch of that activity already was the main content. And, dear Ruud, look, what happened, what was coming out of Ray’s great idea. He built bridges between creative active people in the world. And look for a way to leave the world adequately. He used just a bridge to jump into his death. Really it was too early, maybe nobody ever will know the reasons. But the great idea lives! The network is gigantic, Ray knew that! So it is quite natural, also mail art changed its first idea – starting serious, getting “just to be in” , up to today, trying to get serious again! We have to look for new contents of the correnspondance art

RJ : So, should I end this interview now, so we can dance and play again, or is there something I forgot to ask you?

Reply on : 22-2-1995

KG: Ruud, no, I think in its complexity this interview gives a small overview around the mail art network. It is a great idea, serious communication just now really is so important and helps complete human existence. It is a big word, but it is true. TRY = Life!

RJ :Thanks for the interview!

Ended on : 22-2-1995

ADDRESS MAIL-ARTIST: ADDRESS INTERVIEWER:
Klaus Groh,
P.O.Box 1206
D-26182 Edewecht
GERMANY

mail-interview with Judith A. Hoffberg – USA

THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH JUDITH A. HOFFBERG- USA

52 – unfinished

hoffberg

Started on: 29-8-1995

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 4-10-1995

JH : It is hard to remember exactly when I did get involved in the mail-art network. I remember visiting with Ulises Carrion & Aart in Amsterdam, working with them on a Stamp Art Catalog — and talking for hours about everything for days. At that time, I heard about mail art and sending art through the mail, and asked how to get involved. I think that is how it all happened — in fact, Ephemera was named after a conversation with me — dedicated to me for that whole year.

I met Cavellini at the ArteFiera in Bologna, and other people involved with Cavellini — and perhaps with that opening when CCavellini sent me everything he had published, his roundtrips (of which I have many), postcards, stickers, stamps, etc. , and since I speak Italian, it was an easy friendship. From then on, I heard about Anna banana, Dadaland, and much more.

But Ken Friedman had also told me about the Network in the early 1970’s and I guess I was involved with that early on-as part of the Fluxus movement. So it is really hard to pinpoint when I got involved. As someone who loved to write long letters on the typewriter, and one who loves postcards, it was an easy transition to become an “artist” without having any real creative skills in that regard.

So, first with Friedman and Frank, then with Ulises and Aart, and then with Cavelinni and the whole network by 1977, when I met Gaglione and Banana, and the whole world changed for me. Then there was my large exhibition, Artwords & Bookworks, including many postcards made by artists from around the world. As a result, I opened a shop which featured those postcards, and I also had a mail art show of Umbrella Art in 1979. So the 1970’s was my opening, and Umbrella became my window to the world.

RJ : How did you become interested in Umbrellas?

Reply on 28-10-95

JH : Well, since the name of my business became Umbrella Associates in 1978, thanks to a suggestion from Joan Hugo, as we were sitting in an airport in San Jose waiting for our late plane to Los Angeles after the First Artists’ Publication Fair in San Jose in 1977. I had just resigned from the position of Executive Secretary of the Art Libraries Society of North America, which I had founded, and as we were sitting, Joan, a noted librarian and my co-curator in the Artwords & Bookworks exhibition, asked what I would be doing next; I hadn’t the faintest idea at the time, but she had been thinking about it, and told me she had done some research. She had discovered that there was once a periodical called Parasol edited by Ricky de Marco, but it was not extant. Then she had looked through the entire list of periodicals and could not find any other periodical called “Umbrella”, and so she thought I should start a business as a consultant, called Umbrella Associates, and publish a newsletter called Umbrella, and so I did.

A strong interest in umbrellas had never occurred to me — except for one print which I had bought in 1966 in Washington, DC which I have in my office. But since my interest in mail art had been growing at the same time I founded my business, I decided that the symbol of umbrella had potential as a logo, an indentifying icon, and perhaps a way for me to send mail art around the world with that image. After learning that my friend Kurt de Gooyer had become curator of a Museum of Photography on the University of California, Riverside campus, he was involved in a group called Art Spies, and he thought it would be a good thing to have a mail art show in his museum, and so I announced to the world that the theme of the show was “Umbrellas” and having contacted just about everyone I knew from the mail art world, I started receiving lots of mail art, actual found umbrellas, etc. With over 400 entries, I began to see the potential for a collection. As an archivist, it was easy to organize this material in notebooks, and so it began. Now I have over 60 volumes of paper ephemera about umbrellas, including handmade postcards and broadsides, advertisements, articles about umbrellas, newspaper photos, photographs both black and white and color, antique postcards and advertising ephemera, and much more.

The collection has grown largely due to my many trips around the world including Australia and New Zealand, and continental Europe. I buy postcards of Umbrellas wherever I go and some summers I came back with 250 postcards of umbrella images. Then, too, I take pictures of Umbrellas wherever I see them, including inside shots and outside shots. So if I cannot buy an item, I take a picture of it. Many artists send me things, including jewelry, clothing, paper items, postcards, etc. As a result, I have learned to live with some of the material but until this year, I have had to store the collection, except for 1984, when I showed the collection as Umbrelliana in the Bumbereshoot Festival in Seattle, Washington, which is held every year on the first weekend of September. I filled 4000 square feet of space, and there still was much material at home. Now the collection has increased a great deal more, but now I live with most of it, having decorated my new apartment with umbrellas everywhere — in the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, office, and everywhere else. It is a universal well known item, whether it be protection against the sun (parasol) or protection against the rain (umbrella), and so I even have taken that name on the internet.

RJ : About the internet I would like to discuss a bit later, but first this magazine ‘umbrella’. In lots of publications about mail art it is mentioned. What is so special about your magazine, and how was it to publish this magazine in the beginning of the 80-ies?

Reply on 8-11-1995 (internet)

JH : In the beginning, I intend Umbrella to be a newsletter that would cover the world‑‑about artists’ books and artists’ publications, about mail art, and about art books, especially those of interest to artists and those who make books, including photography. There would be interviews, profiles of alternative spaces, and the phenomena from 1978 on of an incredible period when anything could happen and usually did.

In retrospect, the 70s were wonderful because it was a period of incredible energy without a market‑driven economy. This means that artists were making art because they had to create, not because they had collectors, buyers and sales every day, month or year. As a result, many experimental works were being created by innovative, ingenious and courageous artists.

Since I had published a newsletter for the Art Libraries Society of North America, I had the skills pre‑computer to create a decent looking newsletter on the IBM composer. As a result, I started out doing a profile of Other Books & So in Amsterdam which I had visited several times; I interviewed Ulises; I talked to Wolf Vostell when he was in Los Angeles; I wrote about Fluxus, Artist Books, and Mail Art. Lon Spiegelman helped me gather all the announcements of shows throughout the world; Ken Friedman helped me with other contacts, and we had four or five issues a year. My newsletter filled a gap, since there were very few English‑language periodicals which listed mail art shows, talked about alternative spaces, discussed alternative media such as books, new periodicals by artists, videotapes and audiotapes, and interviewed fascinating people throughout the world about what they were creating, whether it be books, an alternative space, performances, or whatever. At the same time I was curating a massive bookshow which also had postcards by artists, called Artwords & Bookworks, which clearly showed the alternative, having 1500 items by 616 artists. As a result, I opened up a bookshop with two partners, called Artworks. It opened in June 1979. I had been publishing Umbrella for 18 months by then and subscriptions had quickly increased.

Since I am a librarian, many of my colleagues subscribed through their institutions, and libraries even until today seem to support Umbrella and keep it going. In those years I had tremendous energy and loved all the information that was flowing through my mailbox. Even my post office loved the material that was coming in‑‑especially the mail art. It was wonderful to travel through Europe and stay with mail artists wherever I went. I had a new community of friends throughout the world, and I even came to visit with them, taking pictures of their archives, interviewing them for an issue of Umbrella, and sharing that information with my readers.

Of course, it was a great deal of work‑‑with a IBM composer with only 8000 bites of memory, it meant that there was a great deal of duplication and retyping, but it was worth it! Having built up a subscription list of almost 1000, I felt I was reaching out and making new contacts all the time. And as a librarian and archivist, I felt it was necessary to share the information coming through my mailbox. Now it is almost impossible to keep up‑‑well, I thought it was almost impossible to keep up with the mail that was coming snail mail to me. But I tried to synthesize it and get it out. A whole generation of artists became mail artists because of Umbrella‑‑and the sharing of information made it a nexus for a great deal of alternative activity.

In 1984, I was invited to Australia and New Zealand for two months to lecture, and so I left the publishing of an issue of Umbrella to Lon Spiegelman, who used my publication as a vehicle for protesting Ronny Cohen’s diatribe against the mail art network in New York City. As a result, he sent out the newsletter not only to my subscribers but to his list as well. When I returned to the United States, I found that the issue did not reflect either my policies or my philosophy, and since I only had two issues for my archive, the issue was never available to anyone who claimed it after that time. I suppressed that issue as part of Umbrella’s production. And because of failing finances, I had to suppress publication altogether for six months. As a result, I lost many subscribers, who never came back when I resumed publication in 1985. I have really never been able to recoup those subscribers and it has really been a struggle to keep on publishing.

As it has become more expensive to publish because of paper and postage, I had decided to publish less frequently, even sometimes only twice a year. Now I seem to be publishing four times a year, but I still like to keep it irregular, meaning it gets published when I can get it all together. This year, international rates went up, so that snail mail really costs a great deal of money, even here in the United States. Of course, it is nothing like other countries, but it still takes a big bite out of the budget because of airmail rates. And I feel my readers should get the news as soon as it is published. That is my philosophy. Of course, I may turn to the Net for publishing but I cannot do all that work and do it for free. I have published for 18 years and really want to continue, but giving it away is out of the question for that much work that I must do. Perhaps I can find a way soon, but right now, we are still printing the publication, Umbrella, three or four times a year. There have been changes in Umbrella‑‑since I do not publish regularly, I cannot always make the deadlines of some of the Mail Art exhibitions, but between TAM and Guy Bleus and others who seem to be more connected and distribute that information through other means than a formal publication, the news gets out. Right now, I do not get notices regularly from everyone and must search for Mail Art shows more and more. Perhaps it is an indication of what is happening with fax, electronic mail, etc. I haven’t had time to analyze it. But Umbrella is still around, perhaps not as vitally important as in the days when there was no e‑mail or the Internet, but it still is being read by librarians, artists, curators, book dealers, etc.

RJ: Some say that with the death of Ray Johnson, the mail art period is coming to an end. Some others say that mail art is more alive than ever because of the enormous amounts of projects and exhibitions that there are all around the world (see e.g. the magazine Global Mail). Is mail art still what it used to be?

Reply on 14-2-1996 (internet)

JH : Even four years ago, I was concerned with the change in what was happening with Mail Art. With the growth and development of so much innovative technology, I knew that the Post Office was going to be the choice of last resort for communication, even before I had email or could get on the Internet. I just used common logic that change is part of the end of the 20th century, and a whole generation grew up not knowing who Ray Johnson is, has been, or will be. But Mail Art never depended upon Ray Johnson; it has always depended upon those curious, innovative, experimental, or adventurous. Getting something in the mail that has been stamped a number of times by the “system” as well as the creator is exciting. Even the postal clerks where I have lived have been excited by what has appeared in my postbox, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. There is less time to look at mail now as a clerk in the psotal system, since the emphasis is “how many pieces” in “how much time”, so one hardly sees what whizzes by, since there are optical scanners and fiber optics which govern the distribution of the mail (or at least the sorting of it).

Then there is a younger generation that is sometimes stimulated by a librarian or a teacher who has been doing “mail art” or “networking” for a while and wants to embrace a whole new group of people in doing it. Not once, but as a habit. And that’s why the rubberstamp industry in the United States has burgeoned into a big business. Teachers especially have taken it up, but there must be something in being “independent” and perhaps not being an “artist” that allows one to use a rubberstamp and use it aesthetically to create imagery that is innovative and ingenious. That is why some people think that Mail Art can be used as a project in the public schools. Perhaps that is also why listings for Mail Art appear in journals more diverse than any of the alternative zines and publications by artists which were the norm in the 1970s and 1980s. Mail Art still hasn’t grasped the imagination of most people, but it certainly is nourished by ancillary industries which distribute the correspondence in an aesthetic way.

There may be more shows announced, etc., but I have seen a great deal less documentation than ever before. I love how people cite the rules–no jury, no returns, any medium, any size, documentation to all–and what happens but you wait years and you may never see a list of participants, let alone remember what show it was and when, when suddenly to your surprise comes an envelope with a list of people who participated in a show two years before. The “community” has not grown that much, but many of my friends have been disenchanted by the novelty of mail art. Not because of Ray’s death, but in spite of it. Between the faxes, the email, and all the other forms of communication that rush through the system like magazines, periodicals, books, artist books, newsletters, and generous forms of communication called letters, well, it is almost too much to respond to whether in just the reading of it, or the answering of the mass of it all.

I believe in email for short messages, but email messages are ephemeral, and even if they are enhanced by good graphics, or the Internet creates sites which are graphically dynamic, good solid information is not part of the tool called email. Quick and neat, but not deep. And I really do not think that email and fax art should be considered Mail Art. Mail Art has to go through the international postal system and have been stamped and delivered by the system in order to come under the category of Mail Art. The other means such as email and the Internet as well as fax art comes under the larger umbrella of “Networking” which is not necessarily Mail Art.

Those of us who met during the Age of Cavellini certainly became a community, a group of friends who could visit each other through the mail, and sometimes even in person. I met many people who had archives already well established in the 1970s such as Anna Banana, Bill Gaglione, and many Europeans. I admired the system of order which most of my friends in Belgium and Holland had in order to archive their Mail Art. Ulises Carriƒn opened a space just to exhibit his archive and make it available to any person who was serious. And how often messages were waiting for you as you arrived, since it was a conduit of networking as well. Those days are gone–we have lost the touch of being part of a community. Of course, Peter and Angel Network are certainly exceptions to the rule. That dynamic duo has made it a life’s work to be human networkers and the epitome of what Mail Art can and should be. But who am I to say what “should” be! Other than defining Mail Art as what goes through the international postal system, I believe that networking is totally something else. Certainly Leonardo and Michelangelo had their differences, but their form of writing letters was to take the back of drawings and write to each other or other artists–and keep notes and make notes when an idea popped into their heads. Frederic Remington used to send the most wonderful illustrated letters to his friends! And there are so many people who communicate with each other without feeling or knowing they are a part of a “movement”. They just communicate visually and verbally with their correspondents.

So if there is a difference it is because we are bombarded with too much information–and too much labor to make the same amount of money. I remember being told that this was going to be a life of leisure what with the labor saving devices of computers, etc. But instead, I think we are all working harder for alot less. At least, I speak of the United States…and some of my friends in Europe.

RJ : Time seems to an essential thing in life and art and also mail art. The more one wants to do, the less time one has for every single piece of work. I have noticed in the last years this bothers me more and more (I probably get older too….) and that I hardly react anymore to xeroxes, stupid invitations, and also the hastly written e-mails without any content. How do you deal with all the mail that you get in?

(Because of the incident that Judith’s computer & diskettes were stolen from her place, it took some time for her to get things started again. This explains the short break in the sending of the answer and the getting of the reply)

Reply on 7-6-1996 (e-mail)

JAH: I find that with the tremendous flow of snail‑mail, email, and faxes, it is difficult to write even a good letter to anyone. I find I write great letters to my friends when I am abroad‑‑but never at home. It just doesn’t stir the soul to communicate at length when I can get on the phone and call anywhere in the world‑‑and hear that voice and talk at length. It is not like a letter, which is composed and seemingly more emotive because there is time to think‑‑but it gets the message across. Then there is a fax machine which allows one to send a facsimile document to anyone in the world too‑‑so there is no mystery anymore about communication‑‑at least, instant communication. The occasional piece of mail art that comes in the mail moves the soul‑‑but it is not a constant anymore. Yet, a whole new class of students is learning what mail art is‑‑they are excited and delighted and creative‑‑and you cannot complain about that too!

My time is divided into so many segments that I am seldom moved to do mail art‑‑even when requested. It has to be a heavy invitation‑‑and much time to think about it before I am moved to do it‑‑so it is not a priority for me. As for quick answers to quick questions, I use email, fax mail and the telephone‑‑and all that means is communication and nothing else.

I flit between the world of art and libraries, archives and mail art, book art and trade books‑‑so it is difficult to sort it all out even daily. I prioritize the mail‑‑and deal with the important stuff (money, business, etc.) first and then try to leave some room for fun‑‑but oftentimes, that gets waylaid to a later date, or never. I am sure that for some people I am a zero, because I do not respond to their mail. I do not automatically answer unsolicited mail, although I feel a burden and responsibility to do so. My intentions are noble, but oftentimes my actions do not match my intentions. Alas! As I said before, I thought we were going to have more time to do creative things what with the invention of electronic technology, but ironically enough, we have less time to do what we want to do‑‑and less time to do what we have to do. Too much information, too many people, too much to do.

RJ : This “too much to do” sounds very familiar to me. But a lot has been done by the network. In the last decade also lots of publications have been written about mail art. The major books mostly done by male mail artists by the way. Do these books give a good idea of what the network has been all about?

Reply on 23-8-96 (e-mail)

JAH : Both John Held and Crackerjack Kid have produced volumes which are a tribute to their passion and their dedication to the field. When I entered the “network” it was strictly mail art and I participated not only as an “artist” (which I am not, but I feel I can make it in the Mail Art world by using techniques and media which allow me to do something aesthetic) but also as an admirer of the freedom that Mail Art allowed to everyone from any walk of life, any ethnic or racial denomination, any background at all. I appreciated that freedom. The intermediary was the International Postal System, which functioned fairly well except for a few select sites such as New York City, Washington, DC and especially Italy–all of Italy! Technology certainly changed the language and the techniques–and now the “network” means more than mail–and includes fax and email. I am a firm believer that Mail Art means Postal Mail Art–and that is the mystique of it all. If it is fax or email, it is NOT Mail Art–it is something else, perhaps even “networking”.

When Anna Banana had her Fe-Mail Art Show producing a marvelous catalog in addition, I felt it was a tribute to those women in the Mail Art world who get short shrift. The volumes that have subsequently been produced in the 1990s seem to pay small tribute to the women in the network, never emphasizing their differences, but certainly not producing great testimonials to their contributions to the field.

I feel there are many women in the field who will never get recognized for their long-time participation, such as Pat Tavenner in California and Pat Fish in Santa Barbara. For a short moment, their 15 minutes ð la Warhol, they were appreciated, but there are still chapters to be written about ALL the artists in the network–not just some. The books that are being written now are much better researched than before, and because of new technologies, they can be updated and corrected shortly before being committed to the press. As a result, they are much more respected. The last chapter has not been written in this field, but at least some chapters have been written, and very well indeed.

RJ : Any chance that you will be doing a book on mail art in the future?

(On October 26th 1996 I had a short meeting with Judith Hoffberg when she attended the talk I did at the Stamp Art Gallery in connection to the exhibition I had there about the TAM Rubberstamp Archive).

reply on 3-2-97 (e-mail)

JAH : As to the bibliography that been generated from the male mail artists, I can vouch that Crackerjack Kid’s book is invaluble‑‑some of the essays are so brilliantly written that they can serve as essays for other disciplines as well. I cite David Cole’s essay, for instance, on collaboration that makes such a poetic statement that I have just read it outloud for audiences in universities. I would say that as soon as the Academy gets a hold of these alternative movements, the language becomes rarified, the illustrations become portraits, and the book becomes obsolescent before its time, since it takes so long for university presses to agree to do such books. The information, therefore, is dated as soon as it is published. But it is a start‑‑and by being paperback (and by the way, expensive) not everyone can buy these books, but at least they are in libraries and faculty members buy them‑‑so it is a big leap forward.

I am sure that because Americans have a problem with languages, they are missing out on many volumes which are printed in Dutch or German or French or Polish and we hardly get word of them unless the network distributes them. As a result, I too have been left out of that list, since I am not as active a mail artist as I used to be, and as such, have been informed most of the time by Stamp Art Gallery, since they seem to be on the cutting edge of information about the Network, thanks to the assiduous interest of John Held and Picasso Gaglione.

There never is enough information around‑‑and well informed articles are few and far between. Now that interests of mail artists seem to veer toward fax, computers and artistamps, there seems to be less mail art by the “old guard” and much more interest by rubber stampers, young students, and those just discovering what mail art is about. At any rate, the younger people really love the whole concept, and see it as another venue for barter, exchange and cooperation.

RJ : The Postal Museums here in Europe have been focussing on mail art in the last years a lot. Exhibitions were held in Postal Museums in The hague (Netherlands) Brussels (Belgium) , Bern (Switserland) , Copenhagen (Denmark) , and just today — as I write this on 19-6-97 — the Poostal Museum in Berlin opens a mail art exhibition. Some museums have also started with building their own archives by buying up archives from some mail artists or just by starting their own mail-art projects. What do you think of this development? Where does it lead to?

Address mail-artist:

Judith A. Hoffberg
Umbrella/Umbrella Editions
P.O. Box 3640
Santa Monica, CA 90408
(310)399‑1146/fax:399‑5070

umbrella@ix.netcom.com

mail-interview with Jonathan Stangroom – USA

THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH JONATHAN STANGROOM.

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63

Started on: 4-2-1996

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 2-3-1996

JS : Thank you for the invitation to your interview. I’ve been aware of mail art since my art school days, in the early seventies. I liked the ideas of collaboration and networking (although I doubt that they called it that back then). I liked that it occured outside the mainstream art world…..in the elusive underground. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an address to mail to! That’s not entirely true. In 1972 or so, under the pseudonym “The Guardians of Good Taste of North America,” in collaboration with Liz Hardy a mail box/safe deposit box was reserved in a Canadian project conducted by Image Bank (I may be wrong about the sponsor).

To my knowledge nothing was ever deposited in this box and apart from the confirmation of our box reservation, no mail was generated. I continued to send creative mail (outside of the network) throughout the 70’s and into the 80’s. On returning to the states after a year in India (where the mail became an even greater force in my life) my ex-wife put me in touch with Kate Lanxner (whom I think once interviewed you, dear Ruud). She, in turn, introduced me to RUBBERSTAMPMADNESS as a source for mail art possibilities. Here, I found an entrance to the network. At this time I was experimenting with the copy machines at my brother’s printing shop and produced artworks for Lancillotto Bellini’s “The Artist’s Family.” Other early (for me) projects that I participated in were Jenny de Groot’s “Transport/Transportation” and Pascal Lenoir’s “Mani Art.”

The documentation from these yielded some of my dearest and most consistant contacts. I have to admit that in the beginning I didn’t have a clue what was expected from me (that’s the way I thought). I was a bit shy about it. Once I was into the network the mail came and I’ve been involved since.

Alternative answer : 1987-88

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RJ : Do you know now what is expected from you?

JS : I suppose I know that nothing specific is expected. In those early days I hadn’t seen much mail art and didn’t know what it looked like. It is often said that to understand mail art one has to participate…. until I became involved I didn’t realize the possibilities or understand the breadth of the network.
Although, I decided early on to use my real name rather than hide behind a pseudonym, I considered my early mail art to be quite seperate from my painting and other artwork. Over the years this seperation has all but disappeared and I’ve embraced many of the anti-art establishment concepts that I’ve encountered in the network. I am no longer so keen to sell my artwork and have become rather particular about how it is presented. (This may be a result of my close work with galleries and art consultants). I’ve learned that money is not the only gauge of value…. the exchange, the gift is equally enriching. In the meantime my work has matured. My involvement in the network has coincided with my development as a copier artist, original copies being the bulk of the mail art that I send. I also send stampings, collages and the occasional drawing or painting…. usually with a chatty letter. I sometimes create works to address the theme of a particular project (this is expected) but more often than not I already have something lying around that is appopriate.

There is still the odd piece of mail that comes in that I don’t understand! Documentation is another story…. decent documentation of a project is not only expected but required. At this point, I’ve been involved long enough to not have to worry about what’s expected from me…. I work to send quality artwork….. I expect the same.

RJ : You mention your development as a copier artist. One might think that it is just a quick way to make an original by putting something on the xerox-machine. How do you go about when you want to make an “original copy”?

Reply on 26-4-1996

JS : I don’t see anything wrong with making art quickly…. athough my work isn’t produced quite as fast as it might seem. I use the copy machine as both a camera (photo) and a printing device (copy). It’s another tool that the artist can create with. My work generally employs “direct imaging” that is, I place real, three-dimensional objects on the platen to create a tableau. I rarely make editions of given prints as I’m constantly refining the composition. The objects are sometimes manipulated during the course of the copying process to incorporate aspects of time and movement…. these copies are always unique.

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Sometimes I approach the machine with a specific image in mind and bring the appropriate materials (I often use the supermarket as my art supply store). Other times I work with whatever is lying about…. always looking for objects that you’re “not supposed” to put on a copy machine. Every new object is an experiment with the limited depth of field. The methods of working are different for the different machines that I use. The color machine makes six passes in the photo mode to make an image, allowing for manipulation between colors. I often create the background colors directly on the machine. Placing and removing a white sheet of paper at the proper intervals during the copying process can produce a specific color. The black and white machine makes only one pass, which allows for bolder movements of the subject. Another machine that I use has four seperate cartridges that print one color at a time. Both this and the black and white machine allow you to send a copy back through the machine for overprinting. Working in this manner takes knowledge of the machine and practice. One has to work with the rhythm of the machine.

I’ve collaborated with other copier artists (most notably, Reed Altemus and M. Greenfield) and enjoy that process very much. My brothers have a printing business and for a while they had a store that offered copying servives… I could use their machines as I liked. Important, as I doubt that I would get a good response if I handed a fish over the counter to a technician. It took some time before I felt that I knew what I was doing. When they dismantled the store I bought a black & white machine from them (not working atthe moment)… they kept the color machine which I still travel to use. The color machine is now housed in a shop that is shared by the printing press and my father’s woodworking tools (he’s a wood carver)… there’s a wealth of materials here. The “ORIGINAL” and “COPY” stamps that I use were found in an office supply store and seemed appropriate after a discussion with András Voith. Although we call the images that are made on a photocopier copies, I don’t consider my work to be copies in the sense of reproduction… the copy is the original.

RJ : You just finished one of your mail art projects. How many have you done so far and what was this last one about?

Reply on 24-6-1996

JS : I’m far from finished….the latest project is “The found Sketchbook”. I sent a call asking for found drawings, sketches or doodles. The response was pretty good, just over 100 participants. Some fine work….of course, my favorites are the truly found pieces. Tire marks, footprints and grit adding to the authenticity. They came from the street, peoples cupboards, trash bins….I even received several complete sketchbooks! I plan to create the documentation in the form of a real sketchbook….spiral bound at the top, etc. The work on this has been going exceedingly slow due to financial and personal difficulties…it will get done. There is also the possibilty of me trying to find a space for an exhibition of the work….but the catalogue has to be made first.

My first real project was the “Found Photo Album”. During 1991 I asked for found photographs and produced an album including at least one photo from each of the 140+ participants. These too, were found in many ways “from found in the street to found in an underwater camera on the beach, from people’s cupboards to errors from the processors” and there was a great wealth of subject matter. There was no exhibition and the whole project was conducted through the mail. A successful and very satisfying endeavor. I’ve heard that college instructors actually use it as an example!

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During 1992-93 I had a call out on the theme of Multiculturalism and in June of 1993 mounted an exhibition at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston (which has a large multicultural student body). An interesting and varied show that introduced me to several now regular correspondents. One terrific result of this exhibition was that Angela & Peter Netmail used the documentation to contact and meet Wahyuni Kamah in Indonesia, inviting her to a stamp-carving workshop. Networking at it’s finest.

Conducting a decent mail art project is expensive and time consuming. Postage alone (both for calls and sending out the documentaton) can easily be a couple hundred dollars. Printing is expensive even though my brothers give me a break and I do most of the repetitive, labor-intensive tasks. Good documentation is essential, though…. and I’ve found it worth the effort.

RJ : It seems that both in your copy art and in your projects you like to use the found objects or stimulate other artists to go and look for items that they can find somewhere out there. Did you ever think of the reason why you choose these ‘found’ items…..?

reply on 24-7-1996

JS : The “Found Photo Album” was prompted by R.K. Courtney, of Iowa City, who was collecting found notes for an as yet unrealised project. I had sent him some photos that I had found, telling him how much I enjoyed finding them. He suggested that I put out a call and do something with it. I did.

I, of course, was aware of Duchamp’s use of the found object as well as Rauschenberg’s and others. During the course of this first project I also became acquainted with Bern Porter’s use of “founds”. My enthusiasm for the found item is a bit different though. I’m interested in the deliberately made image that’s not intended to be a work of art… but which, by it’s very existance, is as valid as any museum piece. Real art by real people. The fact that we don’t know the authors of most of this material or its original intent doesn’t alter the aesthetic response. Presented in a formal manner (either in book form or as framed pieces on a wall) the items are no different than any other artwork. The Found Photo Album is as interesting as any family album when we try to discover the meaning of the events photographed. The Found Sketchbook should provide a similar experience to that of looking through any collection of drawings as we respond to the quality of line, composition, etc.

I don’t think of the objects that I use in my copier work to be “found”. Even if I’m using items at hand…. they’re carefully selected for content and visual strength. Banal items, yes… but I think that I’m working in a Dada/Fluxus mode that gives equal weight to all objects/subjects…. “anti-aesthetic”, Reed Altemus calls it…. I’m not sure that I agree with him. Regardless, the objects are considered before I use them and not randomly chosen.

RJ : This expression “I’m working in a Dada/Fluxus mode…..” is quite interesting. What does Dada and Fluxus mean to you?

reply on 18-9-1996
JS : Both Dada and Fluxus are quite well documented art movements. Dada evolved as a reaction to the First World War and was based on the premise that the war had made aesthetic values meaningless. Considered and chosen utilitarian objects were instilled with the same value as “fine art” objects. Fluxus occured during the early sixties, and pushed the ideas of Dada a bit farther. Everyday activities were orchestrated to become works of art, proclaiming that everyone is an artist and narrowing the gap between art and life. The focus was social rather than aesthetic. Working outside of the “official” art world they challenged the “art as commodity” norm. This is a very basic description of two art movements that confronted very complex issues.

So, when I state that “I think that I’m working in a Dada/Fluxus mode….” all I really mean is that I’m using the commonplace object as the subject of my artwork, using what’s at hand. I’m making art from everyday life in the belief that these simple objects / subjects require contemplation and offer numerous interpretations. Art is a reaction to being human and ultimately it doesn’t matter what I put on the machine to photocopy…. it’s the fact that I’m doing it that’s important.

RJ : Thanks for this short explanation. The envelopes I receive from you are always quite recognizable. The handstamped address is always there. Any specific reason for this typical use of rubber stamps?

Reply on 9-10-1996

(Together with Jonathan’s answer he sent 58 color copy-art works, which will be included in the final printed version of the interview as an example of his work)

JS : When I started out I tried to collage all of the addresses…. this quickly became too time consuming. I acquired this great rubber stamp alphabet and found that the scale was perfect for the 6″x9″ envelopes that I use (the envelope is just the right size to send an 11″x17″ photocopy with two folds). The activity of stamping the envelopes is a pleasant respite from my other endeavors. I do tend to use consistant formats and this is one of them. Being easily recognizable doesn’t hurt, but at this point it’s as much a habit as anything. Lately, I’ve been thinking that the addresses are looking rather dull. The yellow envelopes that I used to use are no longer available…. the white ones seem stark. I may experiment with some kind of background. but the rubber stamping will continue. (I’m still looking for a set of numbers that matches the smaller alphabet that I have).

RJ : Over the years you must have received lots of mail art. Do you keep all you receive? How does your ‘archive’ look like?

Reply on 18-11-1996
JS : I just spent twenty minutes looking for your question….this may give you an idea about the state of things around here. It’s a bit embarrassing. Yes, I keep most everything that comes in. Unfortunately, I’m a very sloppy archivist. Before I moved to this house everything was pretty much under control. I had a file cabinet close at hand and periodically things would be put in order. Upon moving the file cabinet ended up in the attic (where my new studio is slowly nearing completion) and I’ve been working in a 6×9 foot room for the past two years. A token attempt was made at bringing a small file box in, to deal with my more active correspondents. It didn’t really help and has recently been sent to the attic in anticipation of my move upstairs. At the moment, as I sit at the computer, on the desk to my left is a 5 inch stack of supposedly current mail…. a little excavation reveals an old Global mail, Greenfield’s interview booklet and a picture of an ex-wife’s kids from years ago. Next is the computer festooned with unpaid bills and photographs atop the monitor and various calls for artwork and other ephemera tucked beneath the keyboard. As we look right there’s an ashtray, a pile of rubber stamps and ink pads, my checkbook, photographs and a hole puncher. At the far end is another stack of mail, photocopies, potential collage debris and a 1988 Michelin guide to Great Britain. On the floor under the desk, starting at the right, as a pile of stuff that the cat knocked over while making a nest, jig-saw puzzles and other collage material, boxes containing mail art compilation zines, under my feet is another box of rubber stamps and to my left is a stack of atlases and a waste basket with collage material balanced on top. There are shelves that hold mail art books, computer manuals and various office supplies. A stool holds a big stack of photocopies and a book about Fluxus. In back of me are several wallpaper sample books, empty frames and boxes. It’s worse than it sounds. Barely room to move. Soon this should change. The studios upstairs is almost ready…. a little more taping, trim out the window and doors and paint it. I’ll move my piles of stuff up, organizing on the way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep things in order…. that’s the plan. Oh yeah, there are several boxes upstairs containing the “Multiculturalism” show. One of these days I have to put it back together and ship it off to someone who’s doing a better job at this.

RJ : Do you think that keeping all this mail art is an important part of mail art? What normally happens is that only the ‘good’ things are kept in a collection, and that the ‘bad’ things are thrown away. What is your opinion?

reply on 10-1-1997

fish4
JS : Good question. I don’t know. Obviously, I want to keep the work of my favorite correspondents. I’m not sure that I’m the one to judge what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ . Most of the mail that I get is sent with a sincerity that transcends ‘good’ or ‘bad’ . There are pieces that I don’t respond to…. keep them or not…. it’s a dilemma. Today I received two postcards among the mail. One was from a regular corresponondent from Indonesia…. an address change with a note saying that she enjoys my mail (I’m remiss). The other was from Holland…. telling me that the sender was back into the network. Will I save them? Probably. They illustrate part of the process. That might be important. Can I find them? Maybe not. Mark Greenfield says he recycles all of his mail, adding that he keeps all my letters…. I can’t be the only one that he saves. Robin Crozier saves every bit of mail art that he receives… it’s a remarkable collection…. has he thrown things away? Probably. You’d never know it. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that I keep all this stuff. If I didn’t, there would be no record of what happened. Is that important? I don’t know. I do refer to it all from time to time…. just to see what I’ve been up to. Sure, I throw things away… they sit around for a while before I do it. Calls for work that I never got around to doing…. other odd bits and scraps that I don’t understand eventually get tossed. My personal network is fairly small and I value most everything that I receive, therefore I save it. I have no specific plans for this collection. When it comes time, I hope that I can find a suitable home for it…. it provides a good study of one small corner of our network.

RJ : You mention two english mail artists in your answer and I know you recently visited England as well. How different is meeting a mail artist compaired to writing to a mail artist?

next answer on 19-4-1997

(Stangroom’s answer came from West-London, England)

JS : It’s great to meet these people that I’ve been corresponding and collaborating with. I’m not sure what the differences are…… obviously you’re connecting in a different format. I suppose there are certain apprehensions and a kind of curiosity in anticipation of a meeting. For the most part I’ve known the mail artists that I’ve met for a long time through the mail. We’ve known each other well before meeting in person. There aren’t many surprises.I recognized Greenfield, as he waited on the steps of the Tate, by his rubberstamp self-portrait! There are some exeptions. I had not been in contact with Peter & Angela Netmail when they came through in 1992. I was enlisted to drive them from Boston up to Carlo Pittore’s in Maine. They were delightful and I had the privilege to witness an over the top post office performance as Peter franked some 200 artist stamps surrepetitously while doing other postal business. We chatted mail art gossip for the whole ride. We still have very little mail contact.

Another exception would be András Voith of Hungary. We’d been corresponding for some time, though we hadn’t traded many personal details. In 1993 he hosted an exhibition of my copier work and I traveled to Debrecen to attend the opening and do a copier performance. I really had no idea who I’d be meeting. He turned out to be half my age, but ever so capable. It was a terrific opening and a fine visit. He took great care of me. Since then he has visited me in the States, unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend the time with him that he had spent with me in Hungary. We’re still good friends, although the mail has fallen off during the past year.
This one on one kind of personal meeting is different than meeting in groups. I’ve been involved in a handful of group meetings at Crackerjack Kid’s , Carlo Pittore’s and at Printed Matter in New York. With a group the energy is spread through out the crowd…not that these meetings are less significant than the one on one, but these usually have more structure and the interaction is less intense. (Of course, this is the case whether it be mail artists or some other similarly focused group.)

Mail art, by its nature is a social activity….and to me, meeting with these people is a natural development. Maybe I’m lucky…. I haven’t met a bad one yet!

RJ : To my surprise your answer came from London (England) this time. Any mail-art meetings this time? Have you experienced something ‘typically Britisch’ while you were there?

next answer on 2-10-1997

JS : You examine your mail very closely…good! (I guessed that you did). The last question was answered and enveloped here at home, then mailed from London on a recent trip that I made with my father. He had spent some time there as a kid but hadn’t been back to England since 1941…. I’d been over a couple of times last year and he became interested in returning. I had a free companion ticket thanks to American Express and Virgin Atlantic and off we went.

Yes, I had a ‘typically’ Britisch experience this trip, as we did a lot of the tourist thing…. changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace…… pigeons on Trafalgar Aquare…. that sort of thing. We did visit for an hour or so with Michael Leigh and spent the better half of a day with David Dellafiora who also introduced us to Patricia Collins and Peter Liversidge. I wasn’t able to visit with Robin Crozier, but did phone him…. he’s adjusting to retirement from his teaching job. All, great people and devoted mail artists.

Dad and I get along fine, but we’d never spent that kind of time alone together…. ever. It was also Dad’s first flight! We’ve got different interests but seem to be able to accommodate each other. I was delighted when a guard at the National Gallery came over to reprimand Dad for getting too close to a painting…. he’d been enthusiastically gesturing and poiting as he described how he liked the piece (a skating scene from the Netherlands!). He’s also participated in his first mail art project…. something that Peter Liverslidge is working on. No special “male bonding” took place…. we did not tell each other dark secrets nor make up for past differences. We just went on holiday and dealt with the issues at hand.

So the trip was a success, Dad got to visit some of his old haunts (we found the house where he’d lived in 1936) and got to catch up with my friends.

RJ : When people get in touch with mail art and start to be a mail artists it is in the beginning just like a ‘small hobby’. For some the mail art then takes over more and more of their lives , also their social lives. In how far is you mail art integrated with your daily life?

(since the next answer took some time I resent the question again. Only years later I refound Stangroom’s e-mail address and sent him the complete interview again with the latest question. I told him I am finishing up the mail-interview project)

Next answer on 23-3-2001

JS : To start with I have never considered mail art to be a “hobby”. The term implies an activity that is done for relaxation…. something that kills time. From the beginning mail art has been much more important than that for me. I’m an artist…. That defines me and the artwork that I produce for the mail is every bit as considered as my painting and other art activities. My contacts have become true friends, both those that I’ve met and those that I haven’t. I consider them to be collegues on the same level as the artists that I work and socialize with daily. Maybe more so since we work in the same realm.

Years later-

Thank you, Ruud for e-mailing me in regard to finishing this project. The above part of the reply to your last question has been in my computer since 1998!

Since that time I’ve moved house twice… the first move had me camped out in a friends painting studio for a year. I was quite depressed and did very little mail-art, keeping in touch with only a very few of my contacts. In September of 1998 I again visited the UK, assisting with the installation of my friend, Robert Richfield’s photography exhibition in Scarborough. I again met with the Croziers and WACK, who was living in David Dellafiora’s old flat (Dellafiora had by then moved to Australia).

In January of 1999 Reed Altemus and I journeyed down to New York to see the Ray Johnson retrospective at the Whitney and to attend the opening of the Bay Area Dadaists show at Printed Matter where I again met Buz Blurr, John Held Jr., Picasso Gaglione, Mark Bloch, Mel and Mark Corroto among others.

For the next year I did very little mail-art. In October of 1999 I again moved to a new flat…. A bit more civilized than the painting studio. I slowly began working my way back into the mail-art network. I’m still not as active as I was in my heyday, but I am making new contacts, reestablishing old ties and sending to projects. Thank you again for prodding me to complete this interview.

RJ : Thanks for this answer! I myself also had some changes oin my life and therefore am finishing of this project. Thanks for the complete interview. Now others can read it as well.

 

mail-interview with John M. Bennett – USA

THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH JOHN M. BENNETT

Bennett

Started on: 4-7-1995

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 27-7-1995

JMB: I got involved in mail art about the age of 8, in 1951, crossing the pacific on a ship from Japan to Oregon. I wrapped up little messages and drawings in many layers of tape and paper and tossed ’em overboard. After that my career went into a kind of lull, except for a brief period of sending poems I’d written to girls when I was in high school, until about 1974 when I started doing mail art at the instigation of a friend, the now-deceased painter Mr. Sensitive. It was great fun and still is. One of the earliest issues of LOST AND FOUND TIMES was a mail art project (copy is enclosed). Mail art delights continue to make their way into its pages.

RJ : Is it possible to describe what is so delightful about mail-art?

Reply on 9-8-1995

JMB: What’s delightful about receiving mail art is that it’s so full of people’s uninhibited expressions, off-the-cuff blurtings, or careful, lunatic constructions. It’s about as close as one can get these days to a “pure” art, one with no agenda, no career-building motives, etc. (This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have political or social messages – it often, even usually, does – but the functionality of that is impersonal).

Anyway, receiving mail art stimulates my own creative processes – it’s a source of contact with other artists which is most welcome to someone who lives a fairly routine life in a relative cultural desert.

What I like about making mail art is that it’s a medium in which I can either distribute my main work, poetry, and/or do completely spontaneous things that often surprise me and serve as a source of ideas for other projects. Do it, and put a stamp on it! What joy!

RJ : What joy! Is mail art only something positive to you? are there any negative sides to it too maybe?

Reply on 19-8-1995

JMB: Well, yes; I can’t bear throwing the stuff out, so I keep filling up these boxes I then have to move around and deal with. (Pile up around the bed, block the narrow aisles in my office, stumble over….) Fortunately, however, there are a couple of libraries who collect the stuff, so every so often I seal ’em up and ship ’em off, so long as they pay for the shipping, which they usually do.

Basically, if I didn’t enjoy doing it, I wouldn’t do it. I do find the rising postage rates distressing, though.

RJ : Like me, you probably get lots of mail art with invitations to projects, chain-letters, add-to projects, etc. Do you reply to all of those or do you select what you answer?

Reply on 2-9-1995

JMB: The add-to projects are among my favorites – little “brain cells” scurrying around the world acquiring more and more memory as they go. Those always get my full attention. I do reply to most of the project invitations. Some are more interesting than others, of course; though sometimes the truly dumb ones are an irresistible invitation to do something really nasty, eh?

Chain letters, however, are a different matter: I rarely respond to them at all, though I suppose my act of breaking the chain is a response of a kind. I don’t like doing mass mailings (I get enough of that sending out LOST AND FOUND TIMES when it’s published) and chain letters seem like I’m doing someone else’s mass mailing. Many years ago I responded to a few of them, but rarely got anything back – so I think there must be a lot of other chain breakers out there, bless their hearts.

RJ: Thank you, I am one of those collector of chain letters and today my collection is over 700….. You mention ‘LOST AND FOUND TIMES’. What is this publication about?

Reply on 18-9-1995

JMB: LOST AND FOUND TIMES is an avant-garde literary magazine (I’m sending you a copy via surface), that includes the occasional bit of mail art. It began in 1975 as a single-sheet publication of fake lost-and-found notices that was stuck under car windshields in parking lots. The first issues included notices by people we knew in the mail art network. When the other editor died suddenly in 1978 (Doug Landies or Mr. Sensitive) I continued to publish it, gradually expanding its literary aspect. It’s rather fat now, gets around a lot, and is collected in numerous major institutions, etc.

RJ : Are you a collector too? Do you keep all the things you don’t recycle?

Reply on 30-9-1995

JMB: I collect: skull rings, skulls in general, little cars, feathers, rocks, hot peppers, olive oil cans, old bottles, books, postcards, records, masks, rubber stamps, mail art (what I don’t keep is given to various libraries that collect such material), nude decks, photographs, flutes, other instruments, baskets, old tickets, socks, hats, bandannas, my own poetry, and shoes. Whew!

RJ : Why do you collect shoes?

Reply on 14-10-1995

JMB: They substitute for my hands, I don’t like to wear the same shoes 2 days in a row, I like to look at something different when I’m walking, they remind me of vaginas and dicks at the same time, I have wide feet and have trouble finding shoes that are truly comfortable, I have bursitis of the heel, they are like tongues.

RJ : And why do you collect skull rings or skulls in general?

Reply on 28-10-1995

JMB: So cute no hair no death I live inside the boney ring my skinmask itches likes to shine like plastic rubber potmetal aluminium silver wood I have a tiny plastic one with spring jaw holds the words “Time Release” a beetle glistens under maybe this provides the frame:

HARDEST

Spoke returned and animation stands of lettuce
driven over (somewhere else) I cancelled drains you
turned savored itching in the furnace ducts stinks
moon sizes closet lamp the corn regrooms shucks
shirt’s milk plate of horns and dribble gleaming
sons frown

frown house, smiles, plate of skull collection
spotless wilk the shirt shucks moon field of ears
and hair silk waves long thought duct tape spilling-
ledges drains you moved or cancelled else, salad,
copulation in the passage air you spinning tire
without a spoke
9.13.95

RJ : Thanks for sharing this poem with me. When the interview is published at least this one will be shared with more readers. I have noticed that you mostly publish your visual poetry on small papers and postcards in collaboration with others, like Cornpuff, Hartmut Andryczuk, Al Ackerman, to name a few of the ones you enclosed with your latest answer. How do these collaborations come about?

(On 2-11-1995 the LOST AND FOUND TIMES booklet that John M. Bennett publishes arrived at my P.O.Box)

Reply on 10-11-95

JMB: Actually, a lot of my visual poetry is published in literary and/or art journals, and some of it usually is included in my books of poetry. I also exhibit a lot of it in art spaces; recently I had a number of pieces in what must have been an excellent show at the Musée de la Poste in Paris.

Anyway, the collaborations start in different ways – sometimes one of us just modifies or adds to a piece from the other; at other times one of us will propose doing a collaboration and start it. Most are done through the mail. Some are purely visual, some mixed visual and textual, some are purely textual.

One of the longest collaboration projects I’ve been involved with is a series of “chapters,” mostly textual, done with Robin Crozier – this has been going on for years. I’ve also been doing a long series of collaborations with Sheila E. Murphy: we plan a full-length book of these poems, which truly seem like they were written by a third person: they have a unique style all their own. I’ve collaborated with dozens and dozens of folks through the years, and I find it an extremely stimulating and valuable process, both in the doing and in the final results.

RJ : Your use of rubber stamps is quite interesting too. Some mail artists in the USA and Europe like to use several rubber stamps to make a (realistic) visual story out of them, but you like to combine rubber stamps which don’t fit together to give some kind of message. On your latest envelope for example, the head of a bald man with two nails stamped onto his ears. What is the story behind your stamp-work?

Reply on 29-11-1995

JMB: Why make something everyone expects to see; something they’ve seen already? I want to make something never made before, something I, and others, will see for the first time. This is my goal in all my art and writing. Rubber stamps are a quick way to achieve this: with a couple movements of the hand, you can make a bizarre combination of images and/or words and thus have an instant experience of seeing the world as if for the first time: the world becomes new and exciting, and one continues to learn about it.

On a less metaphysical plane, I enjoy rubber stamps as objects (they’re one of my “collections”) and for their potential to create works in multiples, a fascination related to my work as a writer, whose works are reproduced in books, which are the ultimate “multiple” art form. Perhaps this is a contradiction (or unity of opposites): I want to create things no one has seen before, but create them in many identical copies. Vive la contradiction!

RJ : There is another contradiction in connection to mail art. I’ve noticed that some say that mail art is more alive than ever because of the many participants and shows that there are today, while others say that mail art is almost finished because all things that are done nowadays have been done before. What are your views in connection to this?

Reply on 18-12-1995

JMB: Both groups are “right” in their own ways. The mail art world is made up of a great number of somewhat overlapping groups. Some groups fade back – like the one Ray Johnson was in – while others expand, to fade back later, etc. Mail, like any medium, will have art going on in it as long as it exists, though the people doing it and the styles they do it in will change, come and go, etc. As to everything having been done already, of course in a way that’s true, but it’s always been true. Everyone has to go through their own learning process and part of that process is to imitate what they’ve seen others do, so they can get it out of the way and go on to something else.

Mail art is no different from any other art form in this. I am not of the belief, by the way, that Ray Johnson was the “originator” of mail art. He was important in the fomenting of one particular circle of it, that eventually got a lot of attention, and spun off other groups. But people have been doing mail art since the postal service began in France in the 18th century, and even earlier, when “mail” was less institutionalized.

RJ : What do you think of the development of e-mail as a tool for communication? Have you tried it yet, or is a computer something you don’t connect to communication?

Reply on 9-1-1996

JMB: Email seems like a great thing to me, and I know a lot of fine stuff is going on there – Electronic Juxta just “published” an email chapbook of mine, in fact, and there are several fine email “magazines” and other projects going on. The impermanence of it, I suppose, frees people up to experiment pretty wildly at times (and at great length sometimes, too, I’m afraid).

I do have an email address at work, but I happen to have a complex and weird vision problem, and I myself can’t do much with a computer: I can’t do more than glance at the screen occasionally without getting severe headaches that last for days, so this means I can’t enter anything into one, or edit anything on screen. The most I can do is glance at what I think I might want to read, and then print it off to read it.

In order to reply to anything, I have to have a postal address. Anyway, I don’t see electronic media as replacing books, say, but as another kind of media with its own values. There’s something about a book, a physical object you can hold in your hands, completely self-contained, that you can deal with in your own time, that has permanent value.

RJ : You mention “your own time”….. Is it true that almost any mail artists I am in contact with, has a problem with finding time to do things? Are there some special things you still have to do?

Reply on 24-1-1996

JMB: Ah, so much to do: organize these files and stacks, compile books and such of so many joint projects, so much wonderful material just waiting for time and $$$ to put ’em together and publish them, so many books of my own work to organize, edit and hustle, so much art I’d like to do, like make a one-of-a-kind book every day, like fill my backyard with junk sculpture and towers, like make junk collages everyday to send out in the mail, oh so many secret projects to do in the mail that I can’t tell you about; oh for the time to contemplate daily for an hour some treasure received in the mail!

RJ : You mention secret projects and I am very curious on what that could be all about. Is it a secret for the network; would telling me about those projects spoil the project completely. Or even better, are they illegal projects, projects nobody ever would get to know about……. Tell me about those secret projects, I sure won’t tell anybody about it (only publish it….)

JMB: I will tell you about my secret projects,

 

 

 

RJ : Well, I never thought that something like that was possible. I am surprised that you are still able to send out mail at all! I just hope that the printer here in Tilburg won’t censor this part of the text. As I can see from your answers before, POETRY seems to be the most important art-form you use to express yourself. Why? What is so fascinating about letters and words?

Reply on 2-3-1996

JMB: If I knew the answer to that I’d have understood what consciousness is. I can say that the process of writing poetry seems to combine several interests, pleasures, needs; seems to satisfy them like nothing else I do: the need to know, the need to be learning, the need to know I know nothing, the need to know nothing, the need to see and know together, the need to hear what I haven’t heard, the need to read what I haven’t read, the need to be someone or something other than “myself”, the need to say what can’t be said, to think what can’t be thought, the need to be outside and inside knowing outside at the same time, the need to be inside and outside knowing inside at the same time. Language, used as an art, springs from, and addresses, several kinds of consciousness at once; it is the best way for me to attempt a totalizing awareness, to know it all and say it all; to be more than “who I am”.

It’s snowing heavily today, but soon I will head to the kitchen to prepare a nice paella, some gazpacho, and garlic bread. Yum!

RJ : So you like garlic! Do you like people who don’t like garlic?

Reply on 15-3-1996

JMB: Not only do I like garlic (as does the whole family – good thing, too, since I’m the cook), but I’ve been growing quite a bit of my own the past few years. It’s a garlic that grows wild around here that I’ve been cultivating in my garden, a stiff-neck variety, nice and strong with a great flavor. I preserve a lot of it by pickling it in olive oil. Some of my favorite high-garlic dishes are pesto (I grow my own basil, too), pasta with raw garlic and olive oil, pasta with clam sauce and lots of garlic, chicken or tofu marinated in various garlic-based sauces; oh the list is just endless!

Uh, about your question, I have known some folks who dislike garlic – I really do not understand that, it’s sort of like not liking sex, eh? – but whether I like them or not seems to have little to do with their garlic-blankness. Life is full of mystery.

RJ : Which mystery of life would you like to solve right now?

Reply on 2-4-1996

JMB: The mystery of mysteries, & suppose; though maybe I’m happier with such things left unsolved, and open.

(together with the retyping of the text and my next question I also sent a complete printout of the complete interview-text to John M. Bennett)

RJ : Well, time to end this interview I guess, unless I forgot to ask you an important question. Thanks for your time and energy!

Reply on 19-4-1996

JMB: In reading through this interview I realized that nowhere did I mention the most important mail art experience of my life; one of the most important experiences in my life in general, in fact. This was the “mail art romance”which brought me together with my wife, C. Mehrl, now C. Mehrl-Bennett. Around 1977, she, who was living in Dubuque, IOWA, saw some work of mine in a mail art show there, and, as she puts it, thought the work was the most “repulsive”thing in the show. So she sent me some mail, it had a nice sarcastic/ironic quality to it that I enjoyed, and we kept on exchanging mail art. It was at least a year before I even knew she was a she, since she gave her name only as “C. Mehrl”and what she sent was mostly visual. Anyway, our correspondence gradually gor more personal, and in 1979 she came down to Columbus for a visit. It was true love, we got married in 1980, now have 2 kids, and are very happy together. For our wedding, we solicited mail art contributions, which were incorporated into a film about us by John McClintock, called MAIL ART ROMANCE. The film was released in 1982. Lady C, as she calls herself, is a painter and assemblage artist, and her work is as beautiful as she is.

RJ : Well, this is certainly a lovely detail of your life, and you might guess that I am now quite curious about this film. Thank you again for this interview John!

Address mail-artist:

John M. Bennett
Luna Bisonte Prods
137 Leland Ave
COLUMBUS , OH 43214 , USA

Address interviewer:

Ruud Janssen – TAM
P.O.Box 1055
4801 BB  Breda
NETHERLANDS

e-mail : info@iuoma.org

mail-interview with Julie Paquette – USA

THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH JULIE PAQUETTE
(USA)

Paquette
© TAM-PUBLICATIONS 1997

TAM-970161

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 tam@ddl.nl while it actually is tam@dds.nl, 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…….

Address mail-artist:

ex posto facto

Julie Paquette
P.O.Box 495522
GARLAND , TX 75049
USA

mail-interview with Ken Friedman – Norway

INTERVIEW WITH KEN FRIEDMAN

(NORWAY)

This interview was done complete with the use of internet in the period May till December 1995.The appendixes contain some texts connected to the interview.

© TAM-PUBLICATIONS 1996

TAM-960104

INTERVIEW WITH KEN FRIEDMAN

RJ: When did you get involved in the mail art network.

KF: In 1966, when I came into contact with Fluxus and with Ray Johnson.

RJ: How did you get in contact with Ray Johnson?

KF: Dick Higgins introduced me to Ray. In 1964 or 1965, Dick published Ray’s book, The Paper Snake. I already knew the book. In August of 1966, I was visiting Dick in New York. Dick had a huge production camera in his basement where he worked every night, listening to Beach Boys records and shooting plates for Something Else Press books. One night, he used the big camera to shoot a portrait of me, the portrait that was published in Jon Hendricks’s Fluxus Codex. Dick suggested I ought to send something to Ray. I chopped a negative of the photo into a jig saw puzzle and mailed it. That was our first contact.

In those days, corresponding with Ray was more personal than after he got his Xerox machine. We exchanged a lot of work over the years. Everything was one to one with Ray in those days. Even after he got the Xerox machine, Ray remained a spider at the center of his web and tried to mediate as many of the interactions between his contacts as possible. Ray had no philosophical relationship to the Eternal Network. He wasn’t interested in social issues or public space. He was interest in a forum for his poetic activity.

Ray’s approach was private, personal, poetic and it was different from those of the Fluxus artists who aspired to broad social discourse. That discourse was a key aspect of the Fluxus approach. It was an implicit network approach, a public and social way of working with art and communication. That was one reason I became active in Fluxus. I got involved in the mail art network through Fluxus and Dick Higgins. Dick introduced me to Ray Johnson and the New York Correspondence School. There was a lot of overlap between the groups but different kinds of activity took place in each.

RJ: Fluxus seems to have earned a place in history. Lots of books have been published, most of them by people who aren’t Fluxus artists. With mail art, it seems to be different. Almost all books, magazines, articles are written by mail artists. Whenever someone who is not a mail artist tries to write about mail art, it comes out as a strange story. On the other hand, what mail artists write is often misunderstood by outsiders. Will it stay like this? If so, why?
KF: The first people to write about Fluxus were the Fluxus artists ourselves, describing our ideas, our work. Several Fluxus people are skilled writers. Some have worked as editors and publis¬hers. Over the years, we defined Fluxus, writing our ideas and our history in our own words. These writings shaped the first wave of Fluxus literature. Intellectual focus and literary skill were two reasons. The third reason was that we felt we had to do it. Thirty years ago, people didn’t know how to respond to the work and it was easiest for critics and historians not to respond at all. If we wanted to put our ideas into play, we had to do it ourselves. We organized our own exhibitions and performances, published our own art and music in scores and multiples, wrote published our theories of art, music, literature and design in essays and books.

We published through several presses, but there were two central Fluxus publishers. One was Fluxus, the publications and multiples organized by editor chairman George Maciunas in New York, producing mostly multiples. Something Else Press was the other, producing books. Fluxus objects ran in editions of a few dozen and Something Else Press books ran in editions ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 copies. These circulated widely enough to affect the cultural life of the United States and Europe. Along with our own presses, we were occasionally given special magazine issues.

The second wave of writers on Fluxus was typified by Fluxus friends and enthusiasts. This included critics such as Thomas Albright or Henry Martin, curators and gallerists such as René Block, Jon Hendricks and Harry Ruhé, archivists like Jean Sellem and Hanns Sohm. Fluxus artists continued to write in an environment where there were more artists in Fluxus than critics or scholars who wanted to write about us. The third wave of writing on Fluxus began in the 1970s when trained scholars began to examine Fluxus in papers and articles. The first doctoral dissertation on Fluxus was in anthropology, written by Marilyn Ekdahl Ravicz at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1974. Art historians first became interested in Fluxus in the 1970s. The first was Peter Frank. By the late 1970s they included Stephen C. Foster, Estera Milman and Jan van der Marck along with scholars in comparative literature such as Georg M Gugelberger Philip Auslander in theater.

In the 1980s and 1990s, available literature on Fluxus began to expand. Growing interest across several disciplines was one reason. Another was the wide availability of publications by Jon Hendricks. The availability source material made an important difference as scholars and writers who became interested in Fluxus had the chance to examine images of work that had often been a rumor more than a fact.
By the 1990s, art historians and critics began to discover Fluxus and intermedia and make the major focus of their work. These included Europeans such as Marianne Bech and Ina Conzen Me¬airs, Americans such as Kathy O’Dell and Kristine Stiles, Asians such as Hong Hee Kim Cheon, and Keiko Ashino. These were the years of the first significant body of writing by trained scholars specializing in Fluxus: Simon Anderson at the Royal College of Art in London, Owen Smith at the University of Washington, Ina Blom at the University of Oslo, David Doris at Hunter College, Hannah Higgins at the University of Chicago and Karen Moss at the University of Southern California.

The growth of Fluxus writing from the artists to independent scholars was characterized by overlaps between Fluxus artists and their friends; between artists and scholars; between artist scholars and scholars who began to make art. That era has come to close. Scholars and critics now come to Fluxus as outsiders. Curators and editors now work on the basis of seconda¬ry material and they can’t always discuss issues and ideas with the artists, composers, designers and architects whose work they present. Even so, there is much source material available. Higgins, Filliou, Williams, Knizak, Flynt, Vautier, Paik and I have all written extensively. Brecht, Beuys, Christiansen, Klintberg and others have written from time to time.

Most important, the Fluxus writers knew their own history and many have been broadly conversant in general culture, culture theory and art history. This makes a qualitative difference between Fluxus and mail art. Few mail artists know their own history well. They tend to oppose histori¬cal writing and thinking. They are often anti experimental and judgmental about intellectual issues, believing that scholarship, theory and intellectual process are the antithesis of the network spirit. As a result, they don’t know that many of the authors writing on Fluxus have also written on mail art.

Mail art seems to be different for several reasons. Most of the books, magazines and articles these days are written by mail artists. Only a few have a scholarly tone or even a public tone. That tone and a way of communicating so that others can understand gives the basis for others to write on a subject. Only a handful of mail art writers make sense to outside scholars. You can count them on your fingers Chuck Welch, Mike Crane, Judy Hoffberg, Anna Banana, Jon Held, John Jacob.

Even so, it’s a bit of a myth to suggest that there are always mistakes whenever non mail artists write about mail art as compared to writing on art in general. Mail artists do as well as any group of artists. There are a dozen excellent writers whose articles were central to developing the network. Those articles often introduced the idea of mail art to new mail artists.
Mail art people have their own, strongly held opinions. When you combine strong opinions with a lack of historical knowledge, what outsiders write on mail art can seem strange. There’s another reason people don’t write about mail art. It’s easy to be attacked. From time to time, a writer or curator who generally does an excellent job offends part of the network. When the offended parties involve their friends in harsh response, the noise grows to deafening propor¬tions. I recall several highly visible examples and they’ve been a reason for some excellent writers and historians to stop writing on mail art. Mail art is a minor field for art histori¬ans and art journals. You don’t get much credit for working on mail art but you can get a lot of anger. In a situation with few rewards and plenty of ways to find trouble, there’s little reason to write.

Will this stay like this? It will until mail art people learn broad, public language. Mail artists often claim to seek broad public discourse. They claim to be open to issues and ideas. But many behave like small town gossips complaining over the strange doings in the next town. There’s little tolerance for differences of opinion, style or culture. The reasons for that kind of culture aren’t clear. I have some suspicions but no answers. You’d expect a different sensibility on the network, broader, more international, more intercultural. Every times I imagine that things are improving, an unpleasant encounter suggests that the mail art network is what it’s been for two decades now. The mail art network has developed a stable culture with a fairly stable population at any given moment and a certain number of relatively stable ways of interacting. It leads me to wonder about the degree to which the mail art network and the Eternal Network coincide. I can’t see the Eternal Network in the village morals and parochial behavior patterns of the mail art network.

RJ: You say that the mail art network has somehow developed a fairly stable structure. The last years there have been some new aspects to the network. The use of the FAX machines, and the introduction of the Internet for some of the networkers. I remember your reply to Guy Bleus’s FAX project in which you explained why you don’t take part in network Telefax Art Projects. Do you take part in Internet Art projects?

KF: No, I don’t, but not for any particular reason. There haven’t been many well thought out art projects on Internet. Most art mediated by Internet or e mail aren’t exciting. E mail works well for correspondence and literature. Web sites make visual art possible. But most artists using the medium aren’t doing work that interests me. If the work isn’t interesting, I won’t take part just because it’s presented in cyberspace.

RJ: Since the beginning, the term “mail artist” has been used in relation to correspondence. Now everybody is talking about “networkers” and “networking.” Somehow I see that the focus isn’t as much on art as it is on communication. What do you think about this?
KF: My use of terms “mail art” and “correspondence art” is flexible. I don’t use the term “networking” to describe art. The term I use depends on the aspect of the work to be emphasized. I also use the term communications art. My work with mail or correspondence isn’t my main interest. It’s part of a larger inquiry. The idea of a network of people doing mail art, correspondence art or E mail art as “networkers” or “tourists” bothers me. Any group of people communicating with each other constitutes a network. What makes one network different than another? The focus and content of their communication. When a network begins to focus primarily on the fact that it is communicating, it becomes a group of pen pals, a small town social club. The larger networks we can form allow us to step outside the boundaries that were once imposed by time and space. Even though we can transcend the restrictions of local culture, the mail art network has built its own small town culture. This culture is enacted in a fragmented but linked environment. It’s described as the mail art network because it grew up around the mail art scene. The culture celebrates its local heroes. Its members set up their own rules and interact in a restrictive and problematic way. The “networkers network” and the “tourist network” are contrary to what interested me in the broad, open ended phenomenon cultural, intellectual, spiritual that Filliou termed “the Eternal Network.”

I don’t talk about networkers or networking. The network doesn’t interest me as a network. It’s no better and no worse than most social clubs. Networks are interesting for what they can do, what they transmit, what they can achieve.

RJ: What IS the primary focus of your work ? What is the larger inquiry you mention ?

KF: The broad focus of my work is art as a tool for research, creative and rigorous experiments in different domains of culture, meaning and consciousness. Every search has many levels. Some levels are abstract. Some are concrete. I stake out problems that interest me and work them through in different ways. That sounds abstract but the work is quite concrete, a response to specific ideas and situations. The situations and ideas change like conversations or food. There are issues that interest you or foods you like but you don’t want the same conversation or the same meal all the time. That’s what makes what I do quite different from what many artists do. Most art is based on a style or format. People play with the style format. It defines their work as artists and enables their public to recognize them. That way of working is characteristic of artists in most media, including mail art.
The whole point of research and experimentation is developing useful tools and interesting ways of approaching problems. The issues that interest me change. The question of tools and problem solving has been constant. Some of my experiments shaped tools or approaches to art that others can use. At one point in the 1960s, I was interested in how experimental artists were communi-cating, how they worked with one another, how they interacted. That interest led to a series of projects involving mailing lists and ‘zines. The lists gave birth to projects such as the File magazine lists and to directories such as Art Diary. ‘Zines such as Amazing Facts or the New York Correspondence School Weekly Breeder helped to define a way of publishing mail art that has widely used since then. Next, I began to wonder how to open mail art network to a broad public. That gave rise to three mail art exhibitions at The Oakland Museum, Henry Art Galley in Seattle and the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. Those experiments gave rise to useful paradigms that others were able to adapt and use.

According to Chuck Welch, these three shows became the model for most the mail art exhibitions and projects since the early 1970s. My purpose with mail art wasn’t to do mail art but to engage larger issues. Intermedia and Fluxus projects predominate in the total range of my work. Like everyone, I take part in projects I like. Every situation sparks ideas. I often work in response to an idea from another artist. Sometimes an idea just pops into mind. Every artist has both experiences. The scope of my interests has been evolving for over thirty years. I did many of these things as a child. George Maciunas saw some of those things when I was sixteen and invited me into Fluxus. Thirty years is a long time. That’s 360 months, 1,560 weeks or 10,950 days. You can get a lot done in thirty years if you keep busy. The specifics change. The overall approach and philosophy has been the same.

My philosophy and activities are described in a number of articles and serious interviews. They’ll answer the question better than a quick reply.

RJ: When I sent the first question for this interview, you sent me a bibliography of books and articles where I could find your thoughts on paper. Here, again, you mention your attempt to describe your philosophy and activities at any time. Why is documenting your activities important for you?
KF: Documentation is the place to look for ideas, art works or events from the past. We continually construct and reconstruct our reality through thought and memory. Documents are a tool. This is natural for artists who work with intermedia and or concept art, including mail art, ‘zines, lists, tapes, letters, even interviews. Art media that function at a distance or over time require documents. Even so, while the document offers an entry into dialogue with the work, it’s not the same as the work. The score to an event is the score. It has a valid function as a document and in some cases, it is also a work in its own right. There is also the realized event, and the realization exists in another way. Documents were aspects of art long before the era of concept art and intermedia. Earlier documents include the musical score and libretto for an opera, the text of a play, the blueprint of a building. They’re all documents and they’re all works in their own right for people who can read them and comprehend them through the act of reading. It is nevertheless true that few people can successfully read and comprehend a musical score or the blueprint of a building. For most people, these documents are more important as keys to a realization.

You can say that I began working with documents of art when I saw the books Dick Higgins was publishing, Ray Johnson’s Paper Snake, Dick’s own Postface/Jefferson’s Birthday, the Great Bear Pamphlets, Daniel Spoerri’s Anecdoted Topography of Chance, Robert Filliou’s Ample Food for Stupid Thought. These books were documents and through them, a body of work and a way of thinking came to life for me. The Fluxus multiples and publications worked in much the same way.

I’d ask your question another way. We live in the age of information and intermedia. Can any serious artist work without documentation? Don’t most contemporary artists cross back and forth between ideas, the representation of ideas and the realization of ideas?

RJ: I couldn’t work without documentation. But there may be a danger in documentation if it forms its own truth. Reality things that happen in a specific moment can never be captured by objective documentation because reality is different for everybody who observes it. Everyone recognizes his own truth through the act of observation. Isn’t there a danger in the possibili¬ty that those who create the documents dictate the shape of history? Is documentation that powerful?

KF: This is a danger. It’s a basic problem that we face in all forms of documentation, no matter who makes them and no matter the purpose for which they’re made. It seems to me that there is a strong argument to be made for a variety of clear, understandable sources of document from several views. In the recent past, most documentation on art has been compiled or presented by a handful of journalists, critics and finally by art historians. I suggest that there can be valid approaches to art documentation by scholars from several fields and by artists themsel¬ves.

The better, the broader, the more clear and conscious a body or documents is, the better we can understand what’s happened. I believe that documentation has valid goals and purposes. These purposes can be realized or abused. How we handle documentation, how much and how well, makes the difference.

RJ: How active are you in mail art at this moment. Do you still send “snail mail,” or has the Internet taken over? This question comes out of my personal curiosity. I haven’t had any exchange of mail art with you and I’m not sure if you are still active. I guess that future readers of this interview will be interested, too. I see your name in lots of Internet related materials and I have only received e mail from you, so that’s the reason for my question.
KF: These days, other projects take most of my time. I’m not active in mail art. I exchange with friends like Dick Higgins or Jean Noel Laszlo and I follow the work of important figures like Chuck Welch or Dobrica Kamperelic. Even so, I haven’t been directly active in mail art for a long time. I do something when I’m inspired by an idea or a message. Mail art always took two forms for me. One was exchange when someone sent me an idea or a work. The other was when I had an experiment I wanted to attempt. Not many people send me mail these days, individual pieces meant specifically for me. I don’t respond to printed things or mass produced objects meant for thousands of people. Once in a while, someone does develop an amazing mass produced piece, but the normal mail art going about these days consists of photocopy collages that don’t interest me.

There are no experiments I want to try using the mail these days, either. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I set out a program of projects and experiments using the mails. I look on much of what I do in art as a form of research. You can consider my mail art experiments as a research program. I completed the research a long time ago. Part of what I set out to do was to test the limits, possibilities and paradigms of the post office with projects like the pieces of furniture that I mailed or finding different ways to send objects that stretched the limits of postal regulations.

The other series of experiments was an attempt to find ways to define mail art as a system, an opportu¬nity, a network. I described some of these experiments and projects earlier in our interview. Internet is a terrific communications tool, not an interesting artistic tool. The technology is still too crude to make good use of Internet for art. Or, to put it another way, the technology that is sophisticated enough to use for art is time consuming and expensive. I’ve like simple, inexpen¬sive tools. That’s one of the things I loved about mail art. With Netscape and Eudora, Internet is a simple, inexpensive communication tool. That’s what I use it for. Pioneers like Joe De Marco see Internet and the World Wide Web as good art tool, but even the best projects to date have actually been communication projects, communicating art. I don’t know what’s next.

If you see my name in connection with Internet, it’s because I give wide permission to circula¬te my work. It’s likely to be related to my work on the faculty of the Norwegian School of Management. Internet has become an important tool for my work as a scholar and as director of the Nordic Center for Innovation. The reason you and i communicate by e mail is that we both have it. For those of us lucky enough to have e mail, there’s no better or faster way to send words back and forth.
RJ: I have noticed that most people don’t archive their e mail as properly as they do with the printed matters they receive. I myself save all e mail on diskette, and I even print out the important parts on paper because I like to re read things on paper rather then on the monitor of my computer. How do you deal with the e mail you get and send?

KF: E mail is easier to archive than snail mail. Paper builds up … books, letters, files. There’s never enough time to file and organize. E mail is easy. It shows up on my screen. My computer is well organi¬zed and filed because it’s easy to handle everything sitting at the keyboard. There’s no need to find a file or shelf space or to move around the room sorting and seeking. If I want to save e mail, which I often do, I copy and paste it into a word processor file. Sometimes there’s a reason to make a paper copy. When I do, it gets lost with all the other paper. The electronic copy is easy to find. It’s right on the computer where I left it.

RJ: How much do you know about computers?

KF: Very little, really. I use a Macintosh because it works the way I do. Computers are a power¬ful, sophisticated tool. Now are they becoming smart enough to be useful to most people for most jobs. The breakthrough came with the Mac.

I started using Mac in 1988 when the Mac got smart enough to handle big jobs, including serious design work. A client wanted me to create a design program his staff could use for internal¬ly gene¬rated publications. I went to his office to help him draw up the design. He showed me how easy it was to use Aldus PageMaker and Microsoft Word to do it myself. It took about two or three hours of coaching and then I was working productively. There are people who are excited about what they call computer literacy. Not me. I want the tool to be smart enough to do what I need it to do with minimum special skills on my part. I’ve done some research and publishing on the ways that the new information will affect society and culture, but I’ve focused specifi¬cally on the human and behavioral effects of information, not on information technology or information proces¬sing. Would you like to read the chapter that I’ve written for a new book on the subject just published by Scandinavian University Press? The title is: Information Science: From the Development of the Discipline to Social Interaction. My chapter focused on social interaction. It won’t tell you too much about my ideas about computers. I don’t have that many ideas about computers. It will tell you what I think about what computers mean for the rest of us.

RJ: Since I work with computers it would be interesting for me to read, but probably not for all readers of this interview. At the moment, with Internet, it is also possible to publish your texts in a digital form. Is this something you would like to do?
KF: Absolutely. Internet and computers make it possible to transact enormous amounts of valuable informati¬on on a useful and selective basis without paying to overproduce. Unlike books, you don’t need a minimum number of orders to break even. That means individual thinkers with proper technical support can publish as easily as best selling authors. Nam June Paik predicted the information superhighway years ago. He even created the name! Fluxus, mail art and Internet go back to the beginning, before the beginning. Narrowcasting and narrowcast publishing on the net are new version of Nam June’s Utopian Laser Television. Before long, computers with small cameras and optical fiber cable will be so common that we’ll be able to set up our own televi¬sion cable broadcasts, the true realization Utopian Laser Television.

Thanks to Nam June, I’ve been publishing on line for since last year. When Nam June organized the New York Seoul Fluxus Festival, he arranged a web site where our work was available on line. In typical mail art fashion, I’ll brag about being first to say that Nam June’s show was the first on line art exhibition. I presented some scores. Now, Joe De Marco is develo¬ping a major on line web site for Fluxus. There are scores, art works, and there will later be documents, texts, historical material. Joe has been in touch with historians like Owen Smith and he’s getting in touch with major collections and archives. He hopes to put up a Fluxus archive and museum on the site. There will also be pages for work by individual artists. The Fluxus Home page is < http://www.cinenet.net:80/~marco/fluxus/ > We already have The Fluxus Performance Workbook on line. Interested people can visit the site to browse, copy and download scores by Ay O, Genpei Akasegawa, Eric Andersen, Robert Bozzi, George Brecht, Albert M Fine, Ken Friedman, Lee Heflin, Hi Red Center, Dick Higgins, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Joe Jones, Bengtaf Klintberg, Milan Knizak, Alison Knowles, Takehisa Kosugi, George Maciunas, Richard Maxfield, Larry Miller, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Tomas Schmit, Mieko Shiomi, Ben Vautier, Robert Watts and Emmett Williams. The workbook was planned in 1987 or so. I edited it. It was published by Guttorm Nord, a Norwegian artist who has been active in mail art. It took almost four years to raise the money and publish the workbook. It took about four days between the time Joe De Marco contacted me and the time it was ready to use on the net. You can also find Dick Higgins’s Cowboy Plays on the Fluxus Home Page and there’s lots more to come.
The most use I make of Internet involves scholarly research and communication. I recently completed a survey using Internet. It took me a few weeks to compile the empirical data at a cost of a few hundred kroner. Before Internet, the same survey would have taken months of work and cost at least twenty times as much. Getting decent results, stimulating people to answer the questions and engaging their interest still requires training and skill. Writing is still writing. But the Internet is a great tool. If you have organization, research and writing skills, every step of the physical process is more simple and the costs go down. Just a few minutes before you sent me the last question, I released the on line pre print of a study titled Books in the Age of On Line Information: Will We Read Fewer or More Books? Statistical Summary and Prelimina¬ry Conclusions. The Norwegian School of Management will publish the working paper next month. People can get it on e mail request and decide if they want the working paper by snail mail. Everything just moves faster and more effectively. (A few weeks after this questions and answer took place, the study was published as a special report by the American Association of Higher Education. The study was also discussed in the “Cyberscape” column of the International Herald Tribune on Monday, December 4, 1995.)

RJ: Speed is a relative thing. I’m not referring to Einstein’s theory. I’ve noticed that if one can do things more quickly with computers, one starts to do more work in the same time, makes new tasks for oneself in the free time that is given through the use of the computer. Communi¬cation used to be a slow process. All technological advances speed up the communication process. This results in more communica¬tion, but only for those who have access to the techno¬logy. Isn’t this scary?

KF: There are two issues embedded in your question. The first issue is that we do more work in the same time. That’s not scary to me. The second is that we face the challenge of a world of unequal access to information. That frightens me for many reasons. If you want me to go into it, I will, but to do so, I’ve got to consider political economics and closely reasoned argument. It’s up to you if you think the readers of a mail art dialogue will find that interesting. Let’s consider the first issue, the speed of work. I’m happy for the gains in speed. I love to work. The computer enables me to be more productive as a researcher and writer. The information superhighway enables me to travel farther, to gather information faster and more effectively. My one problem with the infobahn is that it’s poorly organized. The structure is frequently confusing and uninformative. We’ll see things improve vastly in the next three or four years.

Poor structure is annoying to me. New ways of solving problems, new ways of accessing and organizing information, new structures that emerge from the flow of information should, in theory, permit us to address and use the power of questions more effectively. The ability to work with more kinds of information across broad ranges of time and space and the opportunity to seek information from more sources make it possible for users to work in different ways than were previously possible. Some of these ways are more effective, some are less. Those who have had to work with remote libraries and closed stack systems find the new information technology a tremendous opportunity. In some ways, it is not much different than the libraries they have been using except that it places access control in their hands. In some ways, it is superior: it puts a vast amount of information and the contents of many documents directly on their desk with far less waiting time than was required when ordering through a library.

Those who have had the opportunity to work in major, open stack libraries may find the new informa¬tion technology something of a lateral move. An effective information user with field¬ specific expertise and solid general reference skills can navigate a multi million volume library and make use of the materials far more effectively than is yet possible through the new technology. The difference is simple. A good, large scale library permits effective browsing and grazing as well as hunting. The physical medium of the book and the way libraries organize books near one another allows rapid access to the domain of what one does not know that one does not know. This allows one to ask general, open ended questions in a wide variety of ways. While the information superhighway is loaded with documents and ways of finding material that can be surprising and serendipitous, finding useful connections to expert sources can also be surprisingly hard. The infobahn isn’t indexed very well. Developing effective indexing and abstracting systems has always been a key problem for information. This is also true for the medium of physical books and documents in paper technology libraries. The difference is that physical artifacts present themselves organized in some way that rapidly begins to make sense to the user. As a result, the intelligent information user soon structures a conceptual library access pattern. This pattern is an information overlay and navigation chart that becomes an operating system for a multi million volume paper analog information network. Few information users can master the conceptual content of the Internet. It is possible to master the structure and understand the basic content of a physical library. It simply takes examination, practice and footwork. The Internet is too big, and undergoes too much rapid change to make that kind of mastery possible. Good indexes and abstracts together with good links and pointers will be the only way most people can master the concep¬tual content of the Internet. There’s a big diffe¬rence between being afraid and being annoyed. As these problems are solved, I will welcome the improvements. If I want to work more, it’s fine. If I just want to do more in the same time, it’s fine. I may want to do less and use the time in other ways. We have choices. I’ve been thinking about these questions for a week now, the week since I released my preprint report. It’s been an exciting, productive week. I was able to do more work and better work in less time at lower cost. Within three or four days of my preprint getting out, I’ve had requests for copies from nearly two hundred scholars and researchers in over twenty nations around the world, including people I didn’t meet or contact through the original study. Major internatio¬nal magazines and newspapers have contacted me asking for copies. The American Association for Higher Education asked to publish the preprint on their Web Site. I’m finally beginning to understand why the physical scientists who have used Internet have been so much more producti¬ve and resourceful than social scientists or humanists. It’s impossible to describe the profound difference in productivity this technolo¬gy permits. It allows teams, it allows for sharing, it allows people who ought to be thinking and working together despite great distances to do so. It’s one thing to read about something in a magazine and think, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” It’s a another to do it. When you work this way, you understand why this technology is a major development in our ability to serve each other. Information technology is the first signifi¬cant technology that enables us to increase our standard of living while reducing our material resources consumption. That, for better or worse, brings us to your second question. Do you really want my thoughts?

RJ: The problem of access to this digital superhighway is obvious. You have to live in a country with the infrastructure for Internet, you need to have access to a computer, you need to have the money for an account subscription and the phone. I enjoy the possibilities of this new tool because I live in a rich country with the infrastructure and economy to make this possible. The government in Holland also sponsors servers that make Internet access and e mail cheap, too. I am interested in your thoughts about unequal access to information. Many mail artists see Internet as a next step for mail artists, the newest way to communicate.

KF: There are two issues to consider. I’ll take the simple one first. Most mail artists don’t understand what Internet is good for. I’m not speaking in a technological sense. I’m speaking in terms of culture and communication. Mail art has hardly ever been about broad communication. It’s based on small town culture writ large. The mail art network is insular, internalized, self centered. There’s little understanding of history and culture, even little knowledge about the history of mail art. The idea of artists who think this way using Internet as a new way to communicate is a joke. The results aren’t interesting.

Mail art has become boring. Mail art mottoes don’t disguise the fact that mail artists are in many ways a social club. They’re like any other club. We don’t ascribe any kind of great value to groups of pen pals or people who visit each other across borders. What would we think if a group of pen pals claimed to be changing history, revolutionizing art and advancing human progress? Tourism? Networker conferences? The Scouts have been doing it for a century.
Mail art will remain a disappointment without a richer foundation in knowledge, culture and communication theory. The effects of the information society and the knowledge economy are revolutionizing the world. Mail artists haven’t recognized the nature of those changes. They’re working out of old paradigms that don’t make sense today. Perhaps mail art and correspondence art were revolutionary in the 1960s. The world was different. In that distant and more primiti¬ve world, mail art was startling and innovative. Mail art had already become self centered and internalized by the 1970s. The world was shaking. The Cold War was still on but change was in the air. Mail artists were still doing the same old thing, sending the same old messages back and forth to each other. I got into big trouble with a series of essays and pamphlets titled Freedom, Excellence and Choice. I became an outcast in the mail art community. I was startled by the nasty letters and hate cards that I got. I had pursued the same agenda from the start. The network was irritated over the same philosophy and ideas that put me at odds with the art world and gave birth to many of the mail art media now in use. By the 1970s, pursuing those ideas in a thoughtful and critical way put me at odds with the mail art network.

Mail art has no major role to play in the world today. There’s no need for mail art on the Internet. The net’s a different kind of medium. It needs play, ideas and exchange. It doesn’t need mail art. People who see the Internet as an arena for mail art are missing the point. Information technology has opened old fields to entirely new approaches. The technology is helping us to transform information into knowledge by making it possible to work and play in new ways. The information society is shifting the boundaries of most professions, transforming job descriptions and reconstructing businesses. It would be amazing art were to be left untouched.

The world has moved farther than mail art has. The old paradigms don’t hold. Mail artists make too much of their supposedly radical nature without a solid grounding in common human issues. Radical artistic efforts that react against vanished paradigms seem quaint, irrelevant.

RJ: And the second answer, the difficult one?

KF: The second question is extraordinarily difficult. The idea that part of the world will have access to information technology while much of it won’t is profoundly disturbing. If the developed world leaves the rest of the world behind, we’ll have to build a huge wall to keep out the billions of people who want what we have. That won’t work. On the other hand, shaping sustainable development for everyone is a huge problem, just huge.

The flow of information through societies, through organizations, through companies can make a profound difference. But things are difficult. We must make things work in an interlocked system of public policies, business policies and private desires that are headed in directions that don’t lead toward the world we need to shape. I am convinced of the importance of these issues and aware of the extraordinary challenges that face us if we are to achieve enough in the next half century for the human race to survive on this planet.
The flow of information and the development of a good life for all are linked. The development of a good life for all with sustainable development is not the altruism of the rich for the poor, but a key to a good future for everyone. This excites me more than mail art. Back in the 1960s, it was possible to believe that art and the postal system could reshape the world.

To some degree, it was possible then. Those challenges excited me when they seemed possible. It was always kind of a dream, but it was a useful dream. Today, other dreams are more productive.

RJ: I think this is a good place to end the interview. Thank you for your time and energy !

Addresses (old):

Ken Friedman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Leadership and Strategic Design
Norwegian School of Management
Box 4676 Sofienberg
N 0506 Oslo, Norway

Ruud Janssen – TAM
P.O.Box 1055
4801 BB  Breda
NETHERLANDS

e-mail : r.janssen@iuoma.org
APPENDIX-1

(Sent in by Ken Friedman together with his first answer)

There are a number of texts and documents you may wish to read:

Friedman, Ken, ed. Art Folio. Boston: Religious Arts Guild, 1971. [Religious Arts Guild “Circular/Packet: 2.”]

Friedman, Ken. The Aesthetics. Devon, England: Beau Geste Press, 1972.

Friedman, Ken, ed. An International Contact List of the Arts. Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada: Fluxus West and Image Bank, 1972.

Friedman, Ken and Stanley Lunetta, eds. International Sources (Source Magazine, vol. 6, no. 1, issue 11) Sacramento, California: Composer/Performer Editions, 1972. [special issue devoted to Fluxus and intermedia, also the catalogue of the exhibition International Sources]

Friedman, Ken. “Flowing in Omaha.” Art and Artists (London), vol. 8, no. 9 (Issue no 89, Aug 1973): 6 9.

Friedman, Ken. “Where is the Art Going Today?” The San Diego (California) Union, November 11, 1973: E 7.

Friedman, Ken. “On Artists’ Stamps.” Art et Communication Marginale. Herve Fischer, ed. Paris: Editions Balland, 1974.

Friedman, Ken and Georg M. Gugelberger. “The Stamp and Stamp Art.” International Rubber Stamp Exhibition. Carl Loeffler, ed. San Francisco: La Mamelle Arts Center, May 1976. [exhibition catalog]

Friedman, Ken. “A Discourse on Community.” Art Contemporary (La Mamelle), vol. 3, no. 1 (Issue no 9, 1977): 12 14, 73.

Friedman, Ken. “Notes on the History of the Alternative Press.” Lightworks, no. 8 9 (Winter 1977): 41 47.

Friedman, Ken. “Correspondence Art in Perspective.” Gray Matter. Eve Laramee, ed. San Diego: San Diego State University Art Gallery (1978): 3 6. [exhibition catalogue]

Friedman, Ken. “Storia dell’Arte Postale.” Mantua Mail 78. Romano Peli and Michaela Versari, eds. Mantova, Italy: Assesorato Cultura Comune di Mantova, 1978. [exhibition catalogue]

Friedman, Ken. “Post Haste: Reflections on Mail Art.” Umbrella, vol. 3, no. 3 (May 1980): 56 58.

Friedman, Ken. “The Retrospective was Cancelled.” Fuse, vol. 4, no. 5 (Jul Aug 1980): 304 306.

Friedman, Ken with Peter Frank. “Fluxus: A Post Definitive History: Art Where Response Is the Heart of the Matter.” High Performance, #27 (1984): 56 61, 83.

Friedman, Ken. “Fluxus and Company.” In Ubi Fluxus, ibi motus. Achille Bonita Oliva, Gino Di Maggio and Gianni Sassi, eds. Venice and Milan: La Biennnale di Venezia and Mazzotta Editore, 1990, 328 332. [book published in conjunction with exhibition]

Friedman, Ken. “Fluxus and Company.” Lund Art Press, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1990: School of Architecture, University of Lund, 289 299.

Friedman, Ken. “Rethinking Fluxus.” (in) Fluxus! Zurbrugg, Nicholas, Francesco Conz and Nicholas Tsoutas, eds. Brisbane, Australia: Institute of Modern Art, 1990, pp. 10 27.

Friedman, Ken with James Lewes. “Fluxus: Global Community, Human Dimensions.” (in) Fluxus: A Conceptual Country, Estera Milman, guest editor. [Visible Language, vol. 26, nos. 1/2.] Providence: Rhode Island School of Design, 1992, pp. 154 179. [Special issue devoted to Fluxus, also exhibition catalogue]

Friedman, Ken. “Vytautas Landsbergis and Fluxus.” Siksi. 1/92. Helsinki: Nordiskt Konstcentrum, Sveaborg, 33 34.

Friedman, Ken. “Why I Don’t Take Part in Network Telefax Art Projects.” (in) Bleus, Guy. A Networking Fax Project & Performance. Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 1993.

Friedman, Ken. ” Fluxus Idea” (in) The Electronic Superhighway. Travels with Nam June Paik. Paik, Nam June, Kenworth W. Moffett, et. al, eds. New York, Seoul and Fort Lauderdale: Holly Solomon Gallery, Hyundai Gallery and the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, 1995, 87 97.

Friedman, Ken. “The Early Days of Mail Art.” In Eternal Network, Chuck Welch, ed. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1995.

Friedman, Ken. “Eternal Network.” Eternal Network, Chuck Welch, ed. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1995. [Introduction.]

ALSO

Crane, Michael and Mary Stofflett, eds. Correspondence Art: Sourcebook for the Network of International Postal Art Activity. San Francisco: Contemporary Arts Press, 1984.

Albright, Thomas. “Correspondence.” Rolling Stone 107 (April 27, 1972): 28 29.

Albright, Thomas. “A Guerrilla Attack on Traditional Art Ideas.” The San Francisco Chonicle, February 9, 1972: 49.

Albright, Thomas. “Informed Sources.” Art Gallery Magazine (Ivoryton, Connecticut) vol. 15, no. 7 (April 1972): w1, 7.

Albright, Thomas. “New Art School: Correspondence.” Rolling Stone 106 (April 13, 1972): 32.

Poinsot, Jean Marc, ed. Mail Art Communication: A Distance Concept. Paris: Editions CEDIC, 1971.

Welch, Chuck, ed. Eternal Network,. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1995.

Cohen, Ronny. “Art and Letters: Please Mr. Postman, Look and See… Is there a work of art in your bag for me?” Art News, vol. 80+, no. 10 (December 1981): 68 73.

Zack, David. “An Authentik and Historical Discourse on the Phenomenon of Mail Art.” Art in America, vol. 66, no. 1 (Jan Feb 1973): cover, 46 53.

Artists’ Stamps and Stamp Images. James W. Felter. Burnaby, British Columbia: Simon Fraser Gallery, Simon Fraser University, 1974. [exhibition catalogue]

APPENDIX-2

WHY I DON’T TAKE PART IN NETWORK TELEFAX ART PROJECTS (by KEN FRIEDMAN).

A Reply for Guy Bleus

This text was sent by FAX as a reaction to a FAX-project held by Guy Bleus, Belgium, at ‘De Fabriek’ in Eindhoven, Netherlands, in which Ken Friedman writes about his views to FAX art.

Guy Bleus’s statement on Telecopy Art is intelligent and interesting. Much of what Guy writes is true. Even so, I don’t take part in telefax exhibitions. I want to explain why.

The telefax is a one-line instrument. When my fax is busy, I can’t send or receive other messages. Most network messages are broadcast messages using narrowcast tools. The mailbox is a paradoxial receiver: it is a narrowcast receiver that can receive a large number of broadcast messages at once. Receiving one item in the mail doesn’t prevent receiving another.

The telefax is a true narrowcast receiver. When you are receiving one item, you cannot receive another. Today’s fax technology is still primitive. The fax cannot receive multiple messages and stack them for later feedout. My fax is a fax, and not a computer. I cannot read messages, choose to print, select among them and dump the rest.

Today’s telefax communication is always narrowcast, and I use my fax as a tool of private communication. I want to keep my fax open for incoming private messages. When I travel, I want the paper supply left available for specific communications intended personally for me, not for the network. I am a businessman as well as an artist. I cannot afford to miss a direct communication from a client because the fax is busy all day – or because a full roll of paper runs out on the third day of a six-day trip.
A friend who directs a gallery was once asked to take part in a fax-show. She agreed. Her fax was busy for four days solid. She ran through several dozen rolls of paper. Her colleagues couldn’t reach her. They phoned her to find out why the fax was broken. She wasted hours on the phone every day explaining the problem rather then spending her time getting messages and acting on them. Her colleagues had to spend hundreds of dollars sending urgent information by courier that could easily have been sent by fax if the fax has been available.

This was an instructive lesson to me. The fax should be a tool, not an intrusion. I decided then that I would not take part in telefax exhibitions or projects until the technology changes enough to make it possible for me to avoid these problems. Right now, this isn’t with my cheerful, old-fashioned telefax.

I use my telefax as a personal tool. I do use my telefax to send and receive information for art projects and exhibitions. In some ways, it is the tool that Guy Bleus suggests. At this time, it is a private tool, and I am not willing to open my fax line to the network.

I only want faxes from people who want to communicate directly with me as an individual. I do not want telefax communications from people who see me as part of a network or an undifferentiated member of the category of artists who own telefax machines.

Privacy is an important right. I welcome letters and telephone calls from network friends. I accept network broadcast mailings. I am willing to receive letters and calls from people I don’t know; they may be people I want to know. I don’t want to use my fax as a tool for mail art. Telefax and mail are very different-processes. I prefer to use them in specific and different ways.

(Ken Friedman, March 1993)

APPENDIX-3

SAMPLE OF AN E-MAIL MESSAGE:

PINE 3.90 TEKST VAN BERICHT Postvak:INKOMEND Bericht 57/59
Date: Mon, 25 Sep 1995 12:36:24 +0200
From: “ken.friedman” <ken.friedman@bi.no>
To: tam@dds.nl
Subject: Answer

RJ :

Well, I couldn’t work without documentation. But isn’t the danger of documentation that it forms its own truth, and that reality (things that happen on a specific moment) can never be captured in an objective documentation because this reality is different for everybody who observes it, and everybody recognizes his own truth by observing. Only the ones that document then would form the ‘history.’ Is documentation that powerful?

KF:

This is a danger. It’s the basic problem of all forms of documentation, no matter who makes them and no matter the purpose for which they’re made. It seems to me that there is a strong argument to be made for a variety of clear, understandable sources of document from several views. In the recent past, most documentation on art has been compiled or presented by a handful of journalists, critics and finally by art historians. I suggest that there can be valid approaches to art documentation by scholars from several fields and by artists themselves. The better, the broader, the more clear and conscious a body or documents is, the better we can understand what’s happened. I believe that there documentation has valid goals and purposes, and that these can be fulfilled or abused. How we handle documentation, how much and how well, makes the difference

Ken Friedman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Leadership and Strategic Design
Norwegian School of Management NMH
Box 4676 Sofienberg

N 0506 Oslo, Norway

Telephone Direct: +47 22.11.56.10 (tone) 505
Telephone Switchboard: +47 22.11.55.60
Telephone Private: +47 22.60.85.60
Telefax: +47 22.11.56.20

[EINDE van de tekst van her bericht]

APPENDIX-4

E-MAIL about the E-MAIL projects

STATEMENT: Why I Don’t Take Part in E mail Art Projects

I don’t take part in e mail art projects. I want to explain why. I use my e mail as a tool for research and communication. I subscribe to several listserv lists that have a combined posting of some 200 or so messages a day. In addition, I usually receive another 30 or 40 messages a day to which I must respond, more if a project is under way.

When I travel, I come back to a full mail box. It takes me an average of two hours for every day of travel to get through my mail. I need the communication and I value my time. There’s too much impersonal e mail art communication taking place to interest me.

E mail should be a tool, not an intrusion. I use e mail as a personal tool and a research tool. It is a private tool and I do not want to open my line to the network.

I only want posts from people who want to communicate directly with me as an individual. I do not want e mail communications from people who see me as part of a network or an undifferentiated member of the category of artists who have computers and e mail access machines.

Privacy is an important human right. I welcome letters and telephone calls from network friends. I accept network broadcast snail mailings. I am willing to receive letters and calls from people I don’t know; they may be people I want to know. I don’t want to use my e mail address as a tool for mail art. E mail and snail mail are very different processes and I prefer to use them in specific and different ways.

THE POST THAT I GOT

Subject: Jive Ruud
To: tam@dds.nl (Ruud Janssen)
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 95 7:59:53 CST
From: Chris Dodge <cdodge@hennepin.hennepin.lib.mn.us>
Cc: interjam@art.niu.edu

If ah’ only had time
If ah’ only had
If ah’ dun didn’t need da damn bre’d
I wouldn’t do wo’k fo’ oders
I would wo’k all de time
fo’ mah’self and produce sump’n supa’ fine
If ah’ only dun didn’t need bre’d
If ah’ only had 25 hours some day
If ah’ had da damn time
to answa’ all de quesshuns
dat mosey on down down in mah’ mind.

Karen Elliot for DeSirey Dodge Peace Post

Chris Dodge cdodge@hennepin.lib.mn.us
Hennepin County Library phone: 612 541 8572
12601 Ridgedale Drive fax: 612 541 8600
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Ken Friedman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Leadership and Strategic Design
Norwegian School of Management
Box 4676 Sofienberg
N 0506 Oslo, Norway