WITH EDGARDO – ANTONIO VIGO
After a long correspondence with Edgardo Antonio Vigo since 1983 it was only
natural to invite him in June 1995 for my mail-interview. The interview was almost
finished, and on August 28th 1997 I sent him the last question. Later I found out he
had died on November 4th 1997 , after suffering from a long painful desease.
During the interview there were always two letters we exchanged. One for the
interview , and one personal letter. This is how more interviews go , the personal
letters besides the ‘public’ interview questions.
Because I want to show with the booklet-version what kind of artists I am
interviewing I normally include illustrations of artifacts that came to me during the
interview-process. For Vigo’s interview I waited some time before I could bring
myself to the task of proof-reading the texts and do the layout for the booklet-
version. It isn’t easy loosing a friend and then publish the last words you received
from him. The online-version will contain the text of the interview – as usual – and will
be put online with the help of Jas W. Felter (Canada). For the booklet-version I have
decided to include both the answers and questions as well as the personal
correspondence. This will show you obviously what kind of man Vigo was , and how
these last years of his life went.
Besides the interview & the personal correspondence during it the booklet will
contain some appendixes as well. A text written by Clemente Padin (translated into
English for you and avalable online already , a letter from Ana Maria Gualtiera (she
has the task as ‘holder’ of the collection of Vigo’s work & mail-art and wants to
exhibit the collection in Argentina. She can be reached at the same P.O. Box that
Vigo used , and she works for the ‘Fundaci¢n Centro de Artes Visuales)
Ruud Janssen , 31-3-1998
Started on: 15-6-1995
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
EAV: In the end of 1966 I began contacting some European visual poets – like
JULIEN BLAINE and JEAN-FRANCOIS BORY – and we start exchanging
works. Among them some postcards including very creative ways to fill in the
space that called my attention. For instance postcards which were real
creative pieces, specially made for that communication means.
In 1963 I started editing the ‘DIAGONAL CERO’ magazine in order to publish
there information and articles on our international mail exchanging. But
much of the times we had to fight against the Postal Mail system in our
countries because gouvernments have its rules and we tried to exchange
our information and articles.
Envelopes were treated in an unusual manner which causes real battles
before administrations control. To my part I did not know about the existence
of other mail art groups which were – in a certain way – “institutionalized” as
the concreted case of the “NEW YORK CORRESPONDENCE SCHOOL”
founded by RAY JOHNSON. Later I go on sending my correspondence
under the idea of “COMMUNICATION FROM FAR – via postal”. Using
frequently postal cards, seals, envelopes printed in a not conventional way,
proposals to be answered by original responses.
RJ : Can you give some examples about these ‘fight against the Postal Mail
Reply on 5-9-1995
EAV: One of the most divulged cases was GENESIS P. ORRIDGE’s one, in
England. He made a series of creative postcards by using ‘collage’ methods.
He cuts out photo’s of his country’s queen making erotic positions with her
pictures. That series is confiscated by the Postal Administration besides a
judgement against the author. Defense based its explanations on different
positions from some ahierents to that international practice. At the end,
Orridge was fined more or less severely but not confined in prisson as State
had solicited for him. Later, Orridge edited the complete trial.
Talking about myself and especially during the ‘militar junta’ times from 1976
to middle 1983, I suffered an open censorship, not only on that
correspondence I received but on those sent away. That period was
particulary sad to me. That control comprised destruction of postal
correspondence to me of from me, letters containing invitations which got me
out of time to participate. In sum a cut contact with mail friends. Once an
unusual fact happened. An employee put some postal pieces into my mail
box but those would have been at Censorship Commitee. He was forced to
stop working and he had to accept an early retirement ‘by psychological
problems’. At present he goes on living in Spain where he had to go because
of that uncertain situation. Since then I tryed to modify my way of
communication and, in plus I wanted to let people in other countries know
what had happened here. Also I made a creative stamp to denounce at
international level that my eldest son ABEL LUIS had disappeared (up to
now we do not know anything about him). The result of those tricks was
satisfactory because I was able to tell people in the world about Argentina’s
Anyhow, our Postal Services goes on being corrupted. First they had
accepted to practice that control on mailing and then to steal or destroy all
sorts of postal pieces.
RJ : Well, I’m glad that my previous question DID arrive, and I also hope this
question will arrive. How (or why) did you become so interested in visual
Reply on 7-10-95
EAV: Well, most of my connections were due of my ‘DAGONAL CERO’ editions. If
I had to give a definition of myself I would choose” ‘VISUAL ANIMAL’ or
From this position I always liked to make my editions on new researches,
toward creative and different results. Ever I had tendency to visual
expression -like a sort of ‘visual animal’. To me it was better to see a design
than a word. By 1960 I made a series of ‘poetical compositions’ by using
rubber seals from the office where I was an employee. As you can imagine
those seals had no poetical inscriptions, but anyhow those compositions let
me discover the ‘poetical space’.
I mean that it was a kind of liberation from a page as a ‘real space’, doing
free use of it (the page) as support of a poem. In plus I did a series of
ironical texts where each word (sometimes with an article) formed a long text
written in vertical sense and other times, a few words were placed outside
that column to add some move for visual composition.
Later I knew other advanced theories – concrete, spacialism, cinetic,
process, etc. – and connection with poets like BORY, BLAINE, SARENCO,
CHOPIN and many others. It helped me so much that I could form my
personal writings – then ‘mathematical poetry’ starts.
I must say, I did not try to translate in numbers a kind of code to supply
words. By contrary I wanted to show that, using mathematical writing plus
adding figures and shapes of geometry, plus color use – well, it could be able
– at visual level – to form poetical projection for a posible reader. Those
words I usually choose are taken as a support in a composition and real
value is in texts which are put as titles – a sort of signal to introduce the
Nowadays, in spite of certain historical discontinuity in visual poetry, diverse
solutions make it possible to clarify and understand such divers changes
through that course. Rich oppositions, permanent searches, move this visual
poetry. This is just my opinion.
RJ : In your wonderful postcards you use always this thick carton, which you
decorate with rubberstamps and other additions. Why this choice of
Reply on 29-11-1995
EAV: I think throughout years of MAIL COMMUNICATION development a proper
language has been done, full of creativity and expression.
Postcards, stamps, rubber seals, even envelopes which contain our
correspondence, have become ‘testimonial statements of this tendency’. For
instance to compare a postcard or an envelope having official mail stamps to
the ones which have creative ones offer a great, particular difference.
Talking about myself I am certain that envelopes are it selves a space and a
surface to be particularly treated. They must be a sort of announce for its
content. But sometimes there is contrary result, an opposition between both.
On the other hand, I am certain of that creative stamps and seals have
allowed a great possibilty of renovation into mail communication as it
happens in these days and I would like pointing out the struggle against
bureaucracy in mail administrations -national and international ones-. This
has oppened a great field almost without restriction and, in plus, helps to
concrete all sorts of proposals and brings rich purposes. Postcards are in
endless evolution not only idealogical but formal too.
If we remember those modified printed cards and now we compare
nowadays cards, well, there is a wide transformation. These, in general carry
its own message keeping codes proper to postal rules. The sum of these
diverse results have been done main possibilities on postcards, stamps and
rubber seals – giving an independent field full of creative expression. In plus
it is detachable the diverse intentions into this practice to which I like to add
RJ : Most participants in the mail art network I know live in Europe and The USA.
Only a few from Africa, South America, and Asia. But whenever I participate
in a project from South America and get the documentation, I see hundreds
of participants from South-American countries (e.g. Brasil). It seems that
there are a lot of people in this part of the world that are active in mail art but
that they don’t reach out to Europe. Is the main reason economics or are
there other reasons?
Reply on 9-1-1996
EAV: In Latin America the main problem is an economical one. Especially because
of the endless military “coups d’‚tat” there are not occurate plans for
material prosperity. So the population cannot afford to go on exchanging
correspondence outside. Postal Service costs are high for Latin American
people who decide to maintain their mail activity.
To make matter worse, Postal Services in these countries are not a
guarantee, there is no insurance against loss. As a result answers become
limited to those considerate more important ones. In my case using certified
sendings which at least put forward a claim against Mail Services, in the
case of being able to prouve the sent letter did not reach its destination.
Referring to latin american mail friends, in general, they do not persist in
answering letters for long time, so dialogue stops frequently. In general latin
american callings find best reply from American people.
Anyhow I think this is a general matter in the world, I mean compatriots
accept to participate in national events preferently. Catalogs show this. One
can find those participators just under those conditions but not in the wide
network. Talking about my personal experience, well, many years ago,
Horacio Zabala and I had held an exhibition. We had to accept some
participators proposed by the gallerist for he said convocatory should be
“oppened” to everybody. But time changes some things and Argetin mail
communicators increased in number but because of different reasons. I
would like to add another matter, language knowledge even though
nowadays English makes it possible to have a wide communication. Finally I
have remarked an important increcement of Argentin adherents on diverse
RJ : Most mail artists who are active for many years, always get mail from
newcomers too. How do you explain mail art to a newcomer?
Reply on 30-1-1996
EAV: As many others I frequently receive requests for information about mail art
and how to enter the circuit. Answering I make use of the founding word of
mail art, this is “DISTANT COMMUNICATION -postal via”. I try to explain –
first- the subtle difference between them. Then in general, I send articles
photocopied about that matter, the most clear and pedagogical ones. I
advise them to make multiples for sending by mail. I add a list of mail friends
who use to answer and exchange works frequently, even to the ‘new’ mail
friends. In general I do not get new contacts with them but I receive letters
for most information from those who try to understand after having seen an
exhibition or writting articles on mail art.
Later I feel satisfied when I see their names on a list or we go on in mailing
contact in future and dialogue becomes interesting. During these last two
years – 1994/1995 – I have been receiving frequent correspondence from our
neighbor country Brasil. I have no doubt about divulgence in the press on
this practice. Publications on popular divulgence publish lists of people who
answer that correspondence. Myself I do this and feel satisfied. On the other
hand I always insist in adding lists of mail friends on catalogs to know their
names and addresses. I am certain this method is very effective.
RJ : In 1986 H.R. Fricker started a new thing in mail art with his ‘TOURISM’ and
in 1992, the next step, Decentralized Networking Congresses (DNC), meant
that even more mail artists started to meet. What do you think of these steps.
Were you active in these large projects?
Reply on 4-3-1996
EAV: I was not in contact with H.R. Fricker in 1986 so I knew about his ‘TOURISM’
later. But I got this invitation for ‘DNC’. Even if it was not the aim of H.R.F.
that kind of manifestos push ‘the institutionalism” of mail art, which I call
‘COMMUNICATION FOR DISTANCE – via postal’ Which was born as an
alternative face to predominance of art structures over creative
Mail circuits started and go on – I think – preferring not traditional places for
exhibition – Museums, Galleries, Foundations. Also the way to show their
works. Not more hierarchies, but an opening proposition to everyone who
wants to enter into this way for communication. At first there were altered
postcards, mail stamps in transgression to official ones and also creative
seals of all kinds. One cannot deny infiltration of mail art into the current and
its parallel duration. But I think, as I did take part in both, it exists subtil
differences which promote that classic discussion between a genius and a
I assume not to be able to distinguish clearly about this. Anyhow I find a
great freedom and permanence of those basic priciples of ‘DISTANCE
COMMUNICATION – via postal’. As an example I can make comment about
the constant reception of postal pieces which do not respond necessarily
reach artistic level. I think it is impossible to notice those differences, though,
as happens on the classic discussion genious and madness, there is a
subtle difference only. Meanwhile I find more freedom in mail art –
communication from far, by mail as I like to call this. The denomination
comes from that big and constant reception of mail pieces which do not
respond any aesthetic line but it is full if one observes and pays attention. I
think that Art approches and makes a sort of mimetic with mail works. This
was not a common way to enter into the alternative practice between art and
I agree with this bifurcation and variety of responses before an interrogation.
Puralism means richness. In art there are beautiful catalogs and exhibitions
have wide promotion opposite to simple messages which sometimes ashame
carring a content really transgresor and look for having its own space not to
be wrong classified. I believe that art mixed to mail communication and
finally both got insert in art as an expression.
I do not find anything wrong in this bifurcation, by contrary, plurality means
richness. On the other hand, instead of beautiful catalogs, art exhibitions
well promoted, mail communication becomes a transgressor work, which
makes a continual resistance to be classified in a wrong way.
Everytime a young participator begins his first steps display great,
surprisingly ingenuity breaking out what it is accepted as order and beauty.
Maybe, after some time he searches for surpassing his primary works or he
goes on following the same structures. Each one is free from making his own
choice. Luckily each one can choose, for the moment there is a friendly
To my opinion mail art or – as I want to call it ‘Distant Communication’,
should not risk to fall dlown in doing beautiful, de luxe sendings which is not
in primary purpose.
I know, we, in the mail art communication have similar problems to artists in
general, There are deep, serious deals to carry out. My activity goes on and
never has to stop even though I respond or refuse participation as I like. I
hope to participate in future as free as always, doing creative works without
I choose and accept to participate in creative invitations but do not accept
certain impositions. So I cannot put conditions face to people appreciation
towards my work because in this way I would put conditions limiting the
judgement of others. Everything must be ‘OPENED’ to everyone
RJ : You have probably heard of the new network for communication, the
Internet, in which computer-users can communicate by phone-lines. In the
USA it has taken over a great deal of the normal correspondance, and the
same is happening in Europe. However, this communication-tool is not
OPEN to everybody, because one needs still a lot of money for the access
(computer, phone, modem, etc.) What are your thoughts about this new tool
Reply on 26-5-1996
EAV : Actual technology invents permanently new ways of communication. For the
moment INTERNET is the “boom” but I think, before this can be used by the
artists, it will be another system, better, surpassing its possibilities. I am
certain, that dramatic situation is due of a technology which progresses in a
permanent way. Before analyzing the results, there are other ones, more
sophisticated and better
This ‘CONSTANT DISPLACEMENT’ has brought an evident displeasure, its
result are rather ominous for Society. Another sign could be the ‘crack’ of
equilibrium between products and work. Unemployment of workers is an
universal problem today. In the question there is already signed the problem
about a non ‘opened communication’ and all those who cannot make use of
that. Also costs brought another problem: developed countries will have
offered those communication systems before, so Latin-America and others
will be behind.
I am not in opposition to Internet, a system to which I adhere theoretically,
but I must remark parallel problems. There is still another question more
difficult. At least at personal level. Since long I am worried about the problem
between ‘presentation’ and ‘representation’ into creative area. I think this
idea was proposed by Pierre Restany. And I think, once more we are faced
to an inquiry. The Internet adds to representative methods, with drawing us
from real creative product which is the piece itself. It is possible to transmit
an image perfectly, also it gets benefite from a widest divulgence and adding
a great number of possibilities for communication. But that ‘shown’ work will
remain its author or it will belong to another one.
Then, to be shorter, if Internet systems cannot find its own expression and
from it to codify a creative system, it will go on summing another element
more to always searched perfection, in this case, communications.
In this way I try to remarque the differencies which I observe but I do not
addhere to those who deny today communication ways. The same happened
about ‘fax’ and its succes but nowadays it seems obsolete, at least it cannot
destroy mail art and others.
Today the computer is considered as a tool for communication. Means offer
solution face to the problem of expression but always man makes it possible
to find a creative tool. Communication means do not find solution about
expressing matters, only man could reach ‘CREATIVE FACT’ by making use
of the impulse, necessary to change a simple fact of communicative tool into
a real ‘CREATIVE FACT’
RJ : Your mail art always contains some kind of message. What is the most
important message that you are trying to get ‘into the world’ with your mail
Reply on 24-7-1996
EAV: I have always done my works free from imposition. My subjects are very
heterogeneous and always as a kind of reaction from some exterior actions.
In general those that push my interest to express my opinion come from
social and political fields. In ‘DISTANT COMMUNICATION – via postal’
becomes more extensive into these lands because it is possible to add
proposals from outside or by third ones.
There is an extraordinary richness and especially in last time very clever
subjects appears. After many years in this activity one must surpass some
old themes. This challenge has made an interesting encreasement. On the
other hand, very few invitations have ‘free theme’ so people who invite
search for very creative answers. Talking about myself I do not limite myself
to political or social subjects. I like very much irony in certain habits, the
puns which let us make an alteration in certain established concepts. And,
finally, some accepted opinions in the land of genuine aesthetic to which I
am fond of. I do not send a message, or at least I do not search for it. I like to
keep on being irreverent, but I try to go on following those primary postulates
of mail communication. Free from hierarchies, be simple in order to maintain
a wide range of possibilities for a communication without limits cause of
aesthetical or formal ways which could cause a refusal which is not desired.
These thoughts do not deny my consequent position about certain rules, for
instance my permanent concern to improve my works. On the other hand, my
appreciation for them is not free from my own judgement, by contrary,
another is the opinion from other people – conclusion must be different, at
RJ : A lot of mail artists nowadays (also the newcomers in the mail art network)
use the words Dada and Fluxus in their rubber stamps and artworks. What
do these words mean to you?
reply on 3-9-1996
EAV: Based on the origin of “communication from far-postal via” this seems, to me,
“natural” it occurs. I do not forget the transgressor character of this tendency
in the beginning. Its priciples resemble both movements in order to postulate
a sort of anti-art. Especially DADA and, in spite of being incorporated as an
art institution (let me call it ‘official’ to make a certain difference between
those other intents) and even FLUXUS promote a non systematical rebellion
face to most common postulates. I think, DADA and FLUXUS proposed a
kind of asystematical postulates face to the most current ones. maybe DADA
and FLUXUS begin a new way to aim creative art by basing it in a position.
To do this they started a new way of acting as the result of a new
‘commication’ towards society – even if they attack it on purpose. But one
must signal a difference of world ‘affront’ because it was not an act of
violence but violence against rules which generated ‘the conventional’. This
started a ‘new fact’ specially in DADA since change began from actions
which became facts. On parallel it started ‘creative facts’, impelling fonetics
and visual poetry, and ‘phonic’ ones too. FLUXUS retakes dada spirit
cleverly and in spite of coincidences it obtained an ‘identity’ characteristic.
All those branches, DADA starts, FLUXUS continuity undertake many
adherents of ‘distant communication’ , postal via, since they want to detach
from all that which is considered art. Once more I refuse the term MAIL ART
and retake original one more exact of “DISTANT COMMUNICATION – postal
via” since in it there is a strong wish to set apart from what can be
considered art. Once more I reject the word POSTAL ART as I tried to
explain in this postal report and go on saying “DISTANT COMMUNICATION
– postal via”. And I find a historical projecting which reaches even nowadays
of that “DADA impulse”. As Neo-Dadaisme based on American POP ART
pioneers and numerous contestarian groups after Second World War. That
influence was a sort of revolution never finished. DADA had a short
foundation period but it went on living up to now at international level and
also in many national ones. Like sea water constantly moving, it comes and
RJ You dated you letter “La Plata, 26.08.2000-4”. What do you expect from the
year 2000? Is it the start of something, or the end of something?
Reply on 5-11-1996
EAV: There is a popular sentence here, in my country, about the year one is living
at present: “THIS IS A YEAR MORE OF LIFE” , but there is a reply -more
pessimistic- “THIS IS A YEAR LESS” . But referring to the year 2000
obviously this is the beginning of a new mile age. Multiples thoughts emerge
to be able to inaugurate this time.
You ask me on ‘2000-4’. Well, I just mean we must still live four years to
reach year 2000. I am telling you that, when we reached year 1990 I began
dating my letters ‘1900-90’. I emphasized the way to read that date. Going
on, arriving at 1991 I wrote ‘1900-90 and 1’ or ‘1900-90 and one’. This way
until 1994. Reaching 1995 and nearest year 2,000 a sort of backward
account so I wrote that year ‘2000-5’. This way I try to explain how I arrive at
1996. I did not have the intention to sum or to substract each new year. The
same idea prevail referring to the arrival of the year 2000.
I think, the first decades of that new millenium will be determinant ones. If we
take, as previous antecedents what happened in 1900 -XX century- that idea
becomes certain since ‘Industrial Revolution’ – be born end of XIX century –
acts as foundational element developing new views in many lands. For
instance in creative ones, there is no doubt, the two first decades gave all
what was developed through the XX century. New techniques produced a
great impact at communicational level – as computation and Internet – ends
of XX century. Probably a new language will appear as a codified system at
creative level. On this point of view I dare to believe the new millenium is the
end of certain things and the birth of anothers, as a kind of ‘CONTINUITY
OF DISCONTINUANCE’. I mean, in general people have certain tendency to
accept ‘WHAT IS THE NEW’ – just because that is newest. Even if it has no
RJ : Is it easy to do something NEW in the mail art network when one looks back on everything that has been done already? Is it o.k if new mail artists are repeating things that have been done decades ago?
answer on 3-2-1997
EAV: All creative manifestation whith development, attains what is really NEW. In its full beginning, increasement and development personal contributions are richer and diverse because open space is infinite. This way, it is possible to
observe how much people succeed in innovating the land with their creative messages: In this case about ‘DISTANT COMMUNICATION – postal via’ In these days possibilities to change or surprise have become shorter, just in time to time appears someone who manages to do something really new. On the other hand creative tendencies and their lands for participation can limit or not-improvement towards ‘the new’ .
‘COMMUNICATION FROM FAR – postal via’ has made apportations about
that new tendency, bringing structural changes to make it richer. Since those
postal pieces, taken out from context until what was RAY JOHNSON’S
institutionalization in 1960, modified postcards, stamps, seals, and unusual
materials to be sent by post, all them show a constant encreasement almost
until these days. Possibly there is a sort of ‘CREATIVE IMPASSE’ at present
but luckily saved for the constant possibilities that diverse elements bring. As
an example – which seems to me more evident and characteristic – I detache
hand made ‘envelopes’. I observe in them employed materials and their
conceptual way to be made , colors and collage of very different elements, in
plus their conceptual way of being assembled. Also diagramation in seals
and stamps. Many of them bring independent ideas and, recently ‘stickers’
let us think ideas and are infinite images. Evidently it is easy to find this high
degree of rich creativity into a great number of nowadays collections. I do
not know if we are on top of this practice possibilities but to my opinion I feel
optimistic. We are in close proximity to a new Century and many changes
are expected of course. To my opinion communication ‘by Mail’ should be
replaced by other ways and possibly at present we cannot even imagine how
communication should be. What technology would be in use for
communication by mail.
RJ : Well, as you probably are aware of this mail-interview project also has to do
with all the current available communication-forms. Questions travel by mail ,
electronic mail, personal delivory, fax, anything that is possible at the
moment. It seems that the new ways of communication are mostly technical.
Someone suggested however that teleportation would be possible in the
near future as well. How realistic are the views we have of our future
next answer on 28-8-1997
EAV: First of all I would like to explain to the reader of this interview that, the
dialogue maintained to RAY JOHNSON has allways been through
‘COMMUNICATION FOR FAR – postal via’ but referring to the question, I
think the amount of diverse ways imagined for the future contain so many
ideas that will make possible to suggest not only coherent things but other
ones near utopia. So, to predict the future remains open to all kind of
propositions based not only on techniques in development but in
communication means, also those ones based on ‘supositions’. In the future
reality will show right things, mistakes, approximations and so on….
To my opinion, the situation becomes very difficult – as INGMAR BERGMAN
said : “as much as man produces and disposes in communication means –
too soft – more encreases ‘ PERSONAL INCOMMUNICATION ‘ , this is, one
becomes more and more distant from the other. There is no doubt, for us,
who need ‘DIRECT DIALOGUE’ it will be hard to accept all that so complex
for understanding that finally expected communication is not reached. This
is, one gets more distant from the other one.
For almost all religions a prayer becomes a kind of dialogue between one
who suplicates and the divinity listens, this is very touching. But nowadays
people must preserve their security so before opening the house door it is
necessary to know who is outside. This brings us to certain reced to the
other one. Well, today there is a proposal for loving throughout Internet,
probably this new sort of communication would bring comprehension of
messages, but I insist repeating that mechanical pieces ‘cannot cut dialogue
from person to person’.
RJ : Well, I guess it is time to end the interview now so others can read about
your thoughts as well. Is there anything I forgot to ask?
On November 14th I read the e-mail that is sent to my firstname.lastname@example.org account. I received
an e-mail from Clemente Padin (Uruguay) which he sent on November 6th. In this
message the sad news that Edgardo Antonio Vigo died on November 4th 1997. A very
sad ending to this interview. I will miss the mail Edgardo always sent to me……
EDGARDO – ANTONIO VIGO (1923-1997)
Casilla de Correo 264
1900 LA PLATA
Provincia Buenos Aires
Ruud Janssen – TAM
4801 BB Breda
e-mail : email@example.com