Ruud Janssen with Mark Bloch – USA


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)

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
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 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!
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 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
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 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
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
Item 53 ( 77) The Soundscape
Item 212 (150) Sense of Smell
Item 252 ( 10) Sense of Touch
Item 258 (194) Impairments/ DisabilitiesQuestions/Discussion
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
Item 296 (275) Mr. Happy and Mr. Smith on trial
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
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
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 –

Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 16:24:28 -0500
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
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