mail interview with Ruud Janssen

by Carol Stetser (USA)



Started on: 4-2-1996

CS : 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 10-2-1996

RJ : When someone asks for a date of starting, I mostly answer 1980. But I was sending out mail as soon as I mastered writing, and that must have been around 1967 or so. My father had a huge correspondence-circle for his big hobby, collecting postage stamps, and he was in touch with all kinds of collectors all over the world. This fascinated me, and I also asked for addresses to write to. One of my first correspondence-addresses, I am still in touch with. Then a little girl in Japan, but now a married woman with husband and two children. This correspondence was even there before I had drawing-lessons at school, so it was purely communication and sharing interests. At highschool I found out that I enjoyed art a lot, and started with drawing, and even oil-painting when I was 15 years old.

When graduated, I had to choose for the next step to study, and the choice was strange. The Art Academy, or Physics…… In 1980 (I was 21 then, and studying Physics) I started with TAM, which stands for Travelling Art Mail. It was the start of combining my art-work and my correspondence. Before that date I only sent out letters, and in 1980, due to an exhibition I saw in Tilburg about “creative mail” an artist sent to himself (don’t know the details anymore) I started to do something similar. I sent out lots of envelopes to fictive addresses in the hope that they returned, and also sent out strange mail to myself to see how they would be processed in the mail-system.

Only in 1983 I got in touch with the network. It seems I was doing something others were doing too. How I got in touch the network is quite a strange story. I put an ad in the local newspaper, and asked for people who thought that mail could be used creatively too. One of the answers came from a journalist, who wanted to do an interview with me. I didn’t mind that, and the next week the interview with photo was published in the newspaper. This lead to other reactions, and somehow I also got in touch with Guy Bleus, who I asked for some more addresses. In 1983 he sent me a list of about 800 addresses at the same time. Probably a list of a project he was working on. This really started me, and I began to write to names that sounded interesting, or countries that looked promising. My search in the network started.

Next question on 2-3-1996

CS : I am glad to learn what the initials TAM stand for. In your early mail art did you make postage stamps (artistamps) in response to your fathers hobby? When did your interest in rubber stamps begin?

RJ : Actually the initials TAM stand also for “Tilburg’s Academy of Mail art” and the Dutch “Tilburgse Automatiserings Maatschappy”, but those things came later.

No, my making of artistamps probably has nothing to do with his hobby. Actually the first things I did in mail art was cutting up the official postage stamps and to collage a new one out of them and then see if the postal office would accept that piece of mail. And yes, they did. As I child I used to collect postage stamps as well, that is something I inherit from my father, but I stopped with this immediately when I joined the mail art network. Postage stamps stopped being a collectors item, but become only tools for communication by mail. My first artistamp I made in 1984 or so, a contribution for a project by someone else (this was Bernd L