Here are the scan’s of the handwritten answers by Carlo Pittore in the Mail-Interview I did with him. You can access the text-version at:
Carlo Pittore has a specific handwriting always with pen and ink. Als he decorated the envelopes I sent the questions in and returned them to me. You can click on the individual images to enlarge:
Because someone in the USA wanted a signed copy of the mail-interview I did with Guy Bleus, published by the Stickerdude in New York, I arranged a sending in which also Guy and I would have a signed edition of the finished booklet. Guy stamped the envelope and also placed some delightful rubberstamps on the backside:
The booklet inside looks like this:
Over the years I have published several books. You can actually order them online at:
There are also the books with the mail-interviews. Choose Ebook, hardcopy and for some books even a colour printed version is available.
Last week an interesting parcel from Mike Dyar arrived with in it an object that deserves some attention.
The backside of the parcel receils some details already. A.M. Fine and Ray Johnson, and Mike himself looking for the next question. The mail-interview with Mike Dyar (see on this blog at:
Was never finished and published when I ended the project.
Above the front cover of the parcel. Typical style of Mike, and I am off course curious on what the content will be,
Inside an object carefully wrapen with a paper that reads: CLEVERNESS – “Don’t you think Mr. Ray E. Johnson would enjoy a perfect vacation,
UMBRELLA /mar98 - by Judith A Hoffberg
INTERVIEW WITH EMMETT WILLIAMS: FLUXUS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE
|On the occasion of an extraordinary exhibition curated by Paul Schimmel over the past eight years at the Museum of Contemporary Art entitled “Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979” and the ancillary event called “Beyond the Pink” which brought performance artists from all over the world to Los Angeles, I had the great privilege of escorting Emmett Williams, the pre-eminent poet-performer known to many through Fluxus, but who has distinguished himself throughout Europe as a visionary poet, visual artist and performance artist for a week in February. During that time, I asked him if he would be willing to sit down and have a chat, and here it is on the eve of the publication of his book: Mr. Fluxus: A Collective Portrait of George Maciunas to be published in the U.S. by Thames & Hudson in May 1998.I told him that he has been in my vocabulary for at least 25 years, but we never sat down and talked before this very day of Friday the 13th of February.
I asked him how he got involved in Fluxus.
It was because of receiving a letter one day in Darmstadt, where I was living, from La Monte Young and he was saying he had seen some of my writings and drawings in a German book called Movens (1959) and he wanted to know if he could use some of this material for a magazine they were preparing called Beatitude, and I said yes, and all things developed from there. I did have a letter from La Monte that there was this strange guy named Maciunas who was coming to Europe, trying to escape some bad debts, and that he would look me up and talk about performance and things like that. His letters to me are all in the Getty now because of the Jean Brown Collection. Suddenly, there came George Maciunas, and he had heard about my work, and the work of Robert Filliou, Daniel Spoerri, and Dieter Roth, who were all good friends of mine, and Jean Tingueley and so on and so on. Eventually, in September 1962, that was Wiesbaden and that was the beginning of Fluxus as performance festival. It was simply performance. And of course, there were 14 concerts in Wiesbaden and then Paris, and then Copenhagen (1962) and in early 1963 we went to Dusseldorf for a series of concerts and that was when Joseph Beuys joined the club.
What distinguished me was that I belonged to the European faction, because my friends were Europeans, and soon after Dusseldorf, George Maciunas went back to the United States and started the Fluxus thing in the United States. Alison and Dick had been visiting from Turkey and so that’s how I got to know them in Wiesbaden. I remained in Europe, and Fluxus became something very important in Europe, much more so than in America, thanks to Beuys, Vostell, Ren? Block and other people who believed in Fluxus in a much more serious way than in the United States. These were very accomplished artists, and they were involved in Fluxus and people took note. They explained what Fluxus was, different from what I thought or what Dick thought, and it remains a very very European phenomenon. George was Lithuanian-born himself and had spent the first part of his life in Europe, shaped by these things. He was the “immigrant boy”.
Was the transition in New York, in the heart of AbEx and Pop Art, the reason that Fluxus could not grab on with such competition.
No, no one called himself or herself a Fluxus artist in New York who could match a Vostell or a Beuys or a Kopke or others who remained in Europe and had an entirely different approach. People who made Fluxus created a glorious scene in Europe–Eric Anderson, Kopke, and we did not come out of nowhere, because we had been doing things. My Opera was first done in the 1950s, and so much of my work was done before Fluxus. I knew Vostell, Spoerri, Beuys, Filliou, Ben Patterson and Nam June before there was a Fluxus. I remember meeting in Milano before Fluxus went to the Biennale in the early 1990s and Gino di Maggio asked, “How did Fluxus change your work and your life?” Oh, Ben Vautier said this happened and this happened, and I just said, I saw you Ben Vautier in London before Fluxus and you were doing the same things before Fluxus and after Fluxus. When George said, Let there be Fluxus, we didn’t change our ways and do something else. He gave us a forum so that we could come together and do things.
Did you come together before Fluxus?
I was very close to Spoerri and Filliou. The first performance of Opera in 1959 was with Spoerri and Klaus Bremen and myself in the Keller Club in the Castle in Darmstadt. Daniel was very active in theater at the time, he comes from ballet–the poetry that has come to be identified with me as Fluxus was all there before. It was my work that many people regard as Fluxus work that La Monte saw and that caused Maciunas to phone me and say that I’m coming over to talk about Fluxus. So many of the Americans allegedly came out of John Cage’s class. The only comparable thing in Europe was the summer courses in music outside of Darmstadt where I first met these Americans like Earl Brown and John Cage. I was more interested in those days in Karlheinz Stockhausen, Bruno Maderna and Pierre Boulez– whose ideas of notation changed the nature of my poetic work and gave me ideas of structuring my performances.
I was in Europe from 1949 – 1966 when I went to New York to become the Editor-in-Chief of the Something Else Press. My closest friendship there was with Ay-O, and we are more than brothers to this day. And there were others. And during the years when I taught at Cal Arts, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, and the Sabitas Girl’s School in Massachusetts and at Mt. Holyoke and then the culminating teaching experience in the United States was at Harvard. Ann Noel and I had the finest time at Harvard. We had marvelous students, many friends, and we did not want to stay there forever, because it was far too comfortable. In 1980, I was invited to be a guest artist in the DAAD program in Berlin, and we went to Berlin and have been there ever since. Gary, our son, is now a composer studying in Canada, and Annie and I see our old friends who are still alive and with whom I collaborate: Spoerri, Hamilton and Roth. Al Hansen finally came to Europe, but he dropped dead recently. My friends and collaborators remain European. It is significant that the only prize I ever won was the first Hannah H ch prize, given to me by Berlin, and it was so funny for an American to get this. It made me feel very comfortable. This year, Vostell got the prize. It’s very interesting that this marvelous award should go first to an American, and the next year to Vostell and it is for lifetime achievement in the Arts. I’d like to think that it was given to me in Berlin by Germans.
Berlin has been very good to you, recognized your merits, given you a great studio. It’s very unusual for an American to be embraced so much by this German city.
It is really very nice, and I do this not as a Fluxus artist. When I have exhibitions, I do not say I am a Fluxus artist, I say it is my work. And that makes me very comfortable. And it’s nice to outlive descriptive titles like that. There are not too many people who know about my background. They come to my shows and buy the work, because they like it.
The 30th year anniversary of Fluxus seemed to stimulate the interest in Fluxus with students, curators, and art historians. It was not only in history, but with actual performances, objects, and installations.
The beginning of the anniversary in 1982, and then in 1992 had international repercussions. But many people misunderstand what Fluxus artists complain about–that is, that the museums had ignored their work, but in the beginning there was no work, there was nothing to put on the wall and nothing to look at, so it wasn’t until there came to be things by Fluxus artists to put on the wall that they came to see things on the wall. In fact, what distinguishes the US Fluxus from the European is that Fluxus USA began to make boxes, and we in Europe continued in the tradition of performance. We did participate in the box program, but we didn’t do boxes exclusively.
But coming to the States in 1966 to become Editor-in-Chief of Something Else Press obviously attracted you.
Well, I would never have done it on my own, but the fact is that Dick Higgins knew the French edition of Anecdoted Topography of Chance of Daniel Spoerri, and I translated and re-anecdoted that book and Dick Higgins published it as a Something Else Press book and invited me to the United States to be his editor-in-chief, and passage was paid for this translation, and there is that connection. I had no intention to come to the US for a signing party. I came because to it was to help pay for the translation.
Two years ago, in London, Atlas Press brought out an absolutely staggering new version of The Anecdoted Topography of Chance, all reworked, so that except for Robert, and Topor presented a little introduction, and we all went to work and re-anecdoted the thing again–it is much thicker and more beautiful–and the British press just raved over it. They liked the first thing I had translated, but the Times Literary Supplement said this is the classic of its time–etc. And this time around, of course, the publisher used Fluxus. He said he personally felt that this was the most important Fluxus document ever published–From my point of view, I don’t think so at all. And Daniel would certainly disagree with that, since he wasn’t so hot about Fluxus when he first did that book, and the word doesn’t even appear in the original book. Now it does, because it is inevitable and in the book, we debate that. Dieter Roth translated for the German edition of the book my anecdoted notation in German and re-anecdoted that, so the Dieter Roth German appears for the first time translated into English. Dieter didn’t like Fluxus and didn’t like George (from the Mr. Fluxus book) and Dieter has always been considered a Fluxus artist, and George Maciunas hoped and believed that he might be, but Dieter thoroughly rejected George’s ideas of design, etc.
How did you pick up artists?
George said, we have this museum in Wiesbaden, let’s do something. We have this church in Copenhagen and let’s do something. Mind you, we paid our own way. Why did we pay our own way? Because nobody had a dime. George had a job and I had a job, but I was raising a family and we had real jobs in Germany working for the government. He was supporting Fluxus and his mother, and I was supporting my family. He paid for all of his boxes out of his own pocket. He didn’t have a work ethic, because he didn’t have a play ethic. It was all work.
Is Fluxus a movement?
It was enough of a movement so that Spoerri and Tingueley had a big argument about it, because Daniel and Tingueley and Yves Klein were Nouveau Realistes. When Daniel got involved in Fluxus, Tingueley, his best friend, told him to leave it alone–it’s no good. You have to go in a straight line–that was Tingueley’s warning. But Daniel said, I never go in a straight line, and participated in it. It didn’t mean he was the great champion of Fluxus, but he joined it. As far as Christo and Jean-Claude, they were very friendly to Fluxus and proposed a thing for George, and their contribution to Mr. Fluxus was very sweet in the book. They remember him very kindly.
Then there are embarrassing things. Nam June talks about how Maciunas knew so and so and worked at Cooper Union, and George knew Oldenburg–so I wrote to Claes and asked him to tell me about his relationship with George. He answered that it wasn’t like that. I have documentary proof that George and Claes didn’t work together. I worked with Claes about the Store Days book in 1966, and I don’t think we ever talked about Fluxus. Claes was teaching me all about Pop Art and the American scene which I had missed while I was in Europe. He did not talk about Fluxus at all.
When you were with Something Else Press, what was the distribution problems?
Dick and I tried to get a campus bookshop to get interested in the product, but they said they never got involved in the “vanity press” publications. Dick joined up with Aperture and the Small Press thing Michael Hoffman directed–and there was a meeting with the salesmen. I remember that I was so proud of the international success of a book I did with Hansjorg Mayer, Sweethearts, which Richard Hamilton loved and Duchamp loved it, and eventually Dick decided to publish it. He published it, and Duchamp was very happy to put the coeur volant on the cover. So I had to listen to a salesman, who said, well there was one book, Sweethearts, by Emmett Williams, you know it’s printed back to front–how are you going to sell a book like that to a bookstore, you ought to burn the whole edition. This very thing of considering it printed back to front has generated an essay about that, placing me in a class with Jewish mystics by Jean Sellem at Lund He sent me the outline of his essay and I told him that he was convincing me! It’s nice to know that the ambiguities are there to allow critics to re-interpret the book far from the intentions of the author.
What about your Anthology of Concrete Poetry?
I supposed I was the ideal person to do it, because I was doing that before I came to New York in 1966. I had published my first book of concrete poetry with Daniel Spoerri in 1958, and published quite widely, and I knew all the poets and they had my work and I had theirs. I had brought most of it to become the core of this book (1966-67) and this was seen in America widespread for the first time in that book. With 18,000 copies sold–quite an achievement for a small press. And in Budapest, so many people there had a copy of my book. I consider some of my best work is in the German language now which is not known to those who do not have the language facility.
For those you know you only as a “concrete poet”, doesn’t that seem a limited view of Emmett Williams?
I am a poet, visual artist and performer–and those objects are what sells. What I’m involved in now and for the next couple of years is a project of tongue- in- cheek history of post-studio art from 1960 to the present day (there are going to be 100 of them, and I’ve already done 75)–and 12 ceramic pieces in Verona–learning how to do ceramics–and two of those things are going to be made into tapestries in Pakistan. It was not my decision.
I did some fascinating prints a year ago with a genius in Hanover who does these extraordinary special effects things–and people said it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done, but it’s not really me, since he did them–but I hardly take credit for them. Annie and Gary always want to bring me up to date with these machines, but I do it my way.
We’ve made some trips to Africa, and I’ve made designs of the little people I make–and decided they should go on large wheels and shields–and so these were carved by natives in Kenya (not artists) and they are large and in such bad shape (transport, etc.) and it takes weeks and weeks to get them in shape in order to paint them, and so Annie and I are working on 25 of them. And it will be smashing when they’re all done. The wood has to be dried, and then we have to plane it down.
When did you think about Mr. Fluxus? Was it a long-term project?
When I was in New York–after the death of George–I had been in Harvard and came down for a weekend. And Ay-o and I decided that wouldn’t it be fun to do a book about George–the dozen important people in Fluxus who had been there–called The Book of George-because we saw that after the death of George, funny things were happening. Someone released a story that “I will be in charge of Fluxus”–others said, he was nothing. Two of my friends said well there is not very much to say about George–he’s an overblown figure.
So I asked certain people to give five anecdotes about George Maciunas so that we could get to know him through the anecdotes that people remember him by–from Watts, Shiomi, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Ay-o, myself, about a dozen. We thought how to do this–Ay-o went to Japan and I to Europe, and we forgot the whole thing. I mentioned occasionally that Ay-o and I had been planning to do this, and Michele Verges said I’d publish it if you gave it to me.
I started working on it again 10 years later,trying to find people. It took about 10 years to get letters, manuscripts to me to get them all together–and then to bring it together. I wanted to do a book “from womb to tomb” in the words of other people–sometimes with anecdotes–the story of his life, of his death and how he was loved, hated and feared by all these people and their assessment of what he was–great or terrible. Out of the most devastating is that of Allan Kaprow, who zeroes in on the feud with Stockhausen.
And what about this Love-Hate situation with George Maciunas?
We were all kicked out–only two were not kicked out: Ken Friedman and Ben Vautier. We were all prima donnas–all kicked out. Vostell was never let in; George hated his guts. Beuys was never let in. George absolutely despised him, but Beuys loved him. George not only kicked me out–Kopke, Anderson our of Fluxus, but he denounced us to the Soviet press and to the world as fascist thugs–and this was a joke that Eric did: Eric was making a trip through Eastern countries and started to send letters and postcards from Moscow, etc. how we were performing Fluxus in various cities and George believed it, and we were dismissed.
Bici (Hendricks) has one of the most beautiful accounts of the dying. But it was only after he had died that we knew that it was “gossip” . We only renewed our friendship when Jean Brown brought George to an exhibition of mine at Mt. Holyoke– and George said that maybe we can be friends again and gave me a beautiful name box–but I told him we had always been friends, but “you didn’t believe it”. But he never forgave Dick Higgins for Something Else Press.
There are those books which dictate Fluxus as defined only by George Maciunas. What is Mr. Fluxus about?
George does not have the last word in this book. There are some 70 people pro and con telling what they think Fluxus is and what Fluxus is not. This is not hero worship. 75% ended up in the garbage, and they could save it for their books, but not this one. And I told some contributors that I was returning stuff asking whether they could try again?
Ken ended by saying he hardly knew him. Ben Vautier loved George very much showing a maximal amount of respect for George with a poem that he wrote. Catalogs have served as amazing new data about Fluxus. Ren? Block’s 1962 Wiesbaden Fluxus 1982 is still one of the best. The Fluxus in Germany catalog I believe is the best documentation and it’s too bad it has not been translated.
Do you think that art history books in the future will give Fluxus its due?
I don’t see how they can avoid Fluxus. the time hasn’t quite come yet, but you have some first-rate historians such as Thomas Kellein whose small book on Fluxus published by Thames & Hudson has been translated into German, Japanese and English, and the English edition is now reprinted in a second edition.
And now that Mr. Fluxus is almost here?
Well, the jacket by Ay-O is definitely eye-catching. And I was very happy how the critics treated My Life in Fluxus with great seriousness. It was not a history of Fluxus at all, but was an attempt to show what one member of Fluxus did, what it was like to be part of Fluxus. In this regard, I had many arguments with Jon Hendricks, because he was basing the history of Fluxus on a collection that Gil Silverman was able to buy, which is not complete and not comprehensive.
Let’s talk about Hanns Sohm for a minute.
Well, no Sohm, no Fluxus. The Hanns Sohm Archive was before Fluxus, and it’s all there. Fluxus fits into a large and important archive. If you want Concrete Poetry, go there; if you want Ginsberg, Beats, go there. If you want Wallace Berman, go there. The Sohm Archive gives context to all movements. I used to enjoy going to Sohms’ and staying there before the collection was sold to the Stuttgart Museum. He looks at the material first, then puts it into context. I send all my material to him at his home, before it ever gets to the museum. I had my Opera performed last summer in a Castle outside Stuttgart and it lasted four hours. Sohm was there. And he’s there when you’re short of cash; he’ll buy something to keep you going. And the museum of Stuttgart is one of the jewels of Europe, and it’s wonderful that the archive is there. My letters to George and to Daniel Spoerri are at the Getty now, and it’s too bad they’re not in Stuttgart.
And tell us what plans you have now.
Well, Mr. Fluxus has been translated into German, Lithuanian, Japanese and English. The German translation came out first, and it was from the English original. The English edition is larger, since it has more new material in it. And we have several Fluxus books by this one publishing house in England, Thames & Hudson , including the Fluxus show at the Tate. Ben Vautier and I have done a tape of our ICA performances in London. In March, I have been invited to Australia as President of the Museum in Lodz, Poland and I plan to work with the Aborigines, as well as doing performances in Melbourne. Perhaps I will also visit the Fluxus Collection in Queensland.
UMBRELLA NEWS According to news about Tony Blair’s changes in the Brand-New Britain, bowler hats and rightly coiled umbrellas are no longer seen around the Bank of England.
The cover of the 26 January 1998 issue of The New Yorker has a pope and Castro enjoying the sunset sitting in chairs on the beach, Castro with a typical cigar in his hand and the Pope with a drink and a little umbrella in his drink. Hurrah for the Pope in remembering Umbrella’s 20th Anniversary!
An article in the New York Times, under the title of “Coping” by Robert Lipsyte discusses the life of an Egyptian, Khairy Gurgis, who came to New York in 1983, and it was raining. He borrowed $20 from his wife and bough a dozen umbrellas wholesale, selling them on 6th Avenue for $3 each. Then he brought a dozen more, and kept doing it. He made $75 profit that day, after repaying his wife with the initial $20. It rained the next day, and he was happy to do it again, but the police came and confiscated his goods and directed him to go to Consumer Affairs to get a license. He has been selling things on the street including scarves, hats and gloves for 8 years, as well as manufacturing batik dresses and hand-woven coats under his King Tut label. Although he has had to go before the courts because the City of New York has issued a list of dozens of streets to be placed off limits to vendors, the public has signed petitions to keep the vendors as a vital component of the community. The Umbrella Man wants to be considered a “real human being with a place in my community”.
“The Umbrellas of Yorgos Zongolopoulos” is a lighthearted stainless-steel sculpture that became the emblem of the Cultural Capital of Europe in 1997, Thessaloniki, Greece.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE UMBRELLA MUSEUM Judy & Chuck Goodstein, Joanne Echevarria-Myers, Melinda Smith Altshuler, Genie Shenk, Pam Scheinman, Guy Bleus, Anna Banana, Patricia Collins, Sandra Jackman, Janet Pyle, Carol Stetser, Judith Stein, Unica T, Carol Stetser, Alicja Stowikowsa & Radek Nowakowski
THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT ROCOLA
THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH SVJETLANA MIMICA
Started on: 4-11-1994
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: 17-03-1995
SM : Well, how and when I entered in mail art. It has been during ’89 when I first met (late?) Tihomir Govoskovich, Croat from Vojvodina (ex-Yugoslavia). We met each other casually, via one magazine for meeting new loves. We’ve never become more than friends, but really very good friends. As he knew I draw (in that time, I used ink and pencils in my art and made drawings of various shells, which has been my favorite motive), he gave me good advice (I didn’t think I’m so good!) and – an invitation for a mail art action WEST-EAST in Seattle at CW-Post-AFGN Gallery. I sent materials and waited for a year to receive an answer! The answer came from a young artist-writer Carli Andrechak from Seattle. We had some projects together during ’90 and ’91, but when the war began, we’ve lost the contact. The reasons you know (reasons from her side). I’ve never heard again from her or from Tihomir. I only knew he’s been arrested by Serbian chetriks and (probably, maybe) killed. I plan to stay in mail art all my life, in any situation. Mail art helped me to survive psychically in bad events of the war and gave me beautiful friendships and experiences.
RJ : Can you tell me a bit more about how the mail art contacts changed since the beginning of the war. How did it change things for you?
Reply on : 28-4-1995
SM : At the beginning of the war against Croatia ’91 a lot of mail art contacts have been lost because of the embargo on our frontiers (at the beginning of the war, Serbian Army stopped all mail & trade on the croatian frontiers, so the sacks of mail have been lost forever!). After the liberation of frontiers by Croatian Army, mail fluctuated again. It was sometimes strange and opened enemy-letters from some Serbs (ex-friends) and their sympathizers from abroad. I tried to tell them the truth which I saw with my own eyes and ears, from my own experience! Some of the foreign mail-artists needed a lot of time to understand the truth! Some of them never understood. But, I also met really good people who helped us with food and art-materials from time to time. I can only thank calmly to all who helped and help me!
Prices of the mail get higher, so I can continue my mail-art activity only with help of very good friends in the network and some others who help me to send my private mail (not mail-art). I don’t want to loose good friendship because of the mail-prices! I hope it’d be better if I could go to work abroad. And I hope that old lost contacts will continue again. That we can find a way together for making art and make a mail art international Fellowship (or brotherhood). We can also establish International Association for help to each other. I wrote more about that in my last years issues of the “Light” – review.
RJ : Could you tell a bit more about the magazines that you publish?
Reply on : 15-06-1995
(Between the sending of the third question and receiving the answer to this lots of things happened in Bosnia. The UN bombarded the area Pale near Sarajevo-center after an attack of Bosnian Serbs on Sarajevo. And as a result the Bosnian Serbs took hundreds of UN-observers as hostages. New troops from the UN are flown into Split-airport, to form a ‘rapid response force’ for future events. At the moment I receive the answer most hostages are released, and the extra troops are in Croatia and partly already in Bosnia. Nobody knows what will happen next)
SM : Sorry, I can’t find your third question anymore. Maybe you asked me about my zines. I’m sorry, but I packed my art-materials in case of new bombardments, so I don’t know where it is now.
Well, I started with “Light of the he-Art” in early 90’s and it became more popular during 1991 , during the Serbian attack on Croatia. It’s been a sort of usual mail-art newsletter, with some funny texts , interviews on the streets, poetry and from 1994 with black & white photo’s and little gifts. It goes monthly and is written in English. The other zine, called “Serious Intentions”, has 10 to 20 A4 pages, black & white , texts , photo’s , xeroxes , reports , interviews, etc. It goes since 1992. The first time it was an underground-zine, with half A4 pages. Till 1994 it became A4 paged, with gift, and it is issued every 3 months. I also edit “International Poetry Magazine” once a year, and I am preparing some new publications (Global Art , Emotions , and Obsession). Every of them is some sort of free catalogue of mine of some other art or literature works. They are all made on the computer since 1993. I plan to edit some zines in Italian language too.
RJ : In your “Light of the He-Art” you often interviewed people in the street. You also tried to explain them about mail-art. Have you succeeded in that or is mail-art something only understandable by people who practice it?
Reply on : 28-06-1995
SM: Yes, I always tried to explain to the people, who I interviewed on the streets, what mail art really is. Only few of them (people who worked abroad) knew what I was talking about. The most of all others showed some suspicion. They don’t believe it can function without money, so they refused to collaborate on the exhibitions I gave them instructions “how to do”. I think mail art can be understandable only to people who lived abroad and know “how Europeans live wonderful”. Maybe the most clear answer I received from one young artist last week: “What can you expect here? People live bad, very bad, they haven’t even the everyday food. While lots of them commit suicide, you can’t expect enthusiasm & creativity of young artists, unemployed and with so many existential problems….”! When you haven’ got the food + life, you can’t think about some other “luxury” things…. or maybe you can…. The sense of man is to combat the bad situations and to win them. I think so… and try to live so!
RJ : For most mail-artists it is quite easy to mail out some letters a week. What problems are you facing if you want to mail – for example – a letter to me. Can you just buy a postage stamp and put the envelope in a mail-box (as for most mail-artists in non-war zones it does)?
Reply on 28-7-1995
SM: No, I can’t just buy a stamp and put it in the mail-box. It’s usual if I send letters inside my own country. But is I mail it abroad, I have to bring it, opened to the officer and to explain what I send and why, who i.e. are you. I know they’ll read it when I go out, not in the same post-office, but spies who work only on opening the letters. When I started with mail art, every letter I received has been wildly opened, the same with my letters abroad…. Even now, but only if I write to some new person or some new person writes to me. I receive opened letter or something misses…. stamp or some invitation…. I can’t color envelopes, if I do it, post-office wouldn’t receive it, they don’t like to receive stickered (with stickers) letters and if I put a rubber stamp they treat it as an official letter. The same control exist on the phone-lines (they are listened, but not always) or if I gave a small announce in the local papers – for friendship, someone called me and asked strange things – they wanted to know (they always act as foreigners, but with very bad english!) if I am interested in export- import job, drug abuse or simply sex…. It was very wildly. Then it stopped. I receive all letters closed now, because they know all addresses I correspond with. I know they’ll read it. It was in a local paper ’91 , but somebody negated it; the reaction of people has been justiciable right against such a practice!
And postal rates grow higher from time to time. We have to pay extra taxes for every letter abroad (not for inside my country). That’s all…. I can’t send letters so often because of that, especially to non-European countries. Very few officers know what IRC is! Nobody understands mail-art. “What is this?” they always ask, and when I explain, they don’t understand. Sending packages outside the country is very complicated, with custom duties, a lot of questions etc. It is not easy to be a mail-artist here, but even a hobbyist of correspondence. You are promptly under suspicion! Now all employees in the local post-office know me well and they are polite, but if I’d go to some other office… the procedures will be strong again.
RJ : How do you explain mail-art to somebody that doesn’t know it. Could you tell me what you think mail-art is all about?
(Between the receiving of the answer and the sending of the next question the war started again in Croatia. This time the Croatian army attacked the Kraijina-area, the part of Croatia that was occupied by Bosnian Serbs. But which part of land belongs to whom is difficult to say in this former Yugoslavia……)
Reply on 28-8-1995
SM : For me, mail art is an avant-garde process in art between artists who want to communicate and make actions together. When I try to explain “what’s it all about”, people always ask me: “But, is it payable?” When I explain, they seem dissapointed and try to undertake me. They always say that I do it in the wind and even say that I am “mad” in their eyes. “Silly lady who make it without money!”. I try to explain mail art with the help of the texts you and Ruggero Maggi wrote. And I always see people look puzzled as if they see lies. They expect more money possibilities, and when there are none, they treat me as a guilty person! (When I want to give mail-art invitations to someone the first question is: “How it can work without money? You do believe I’ll give my works moneyless and without salary? Are you stupid?” I had extremely ugly situations and I feel ashamed for the mentality in my country, especially in my town. Money is God to Split’s people, and I’m a black sheep between them.
RJ : Sending out mail for you is now difficult. I also remember that once your mail-box even was stolen. Does all the mail sent to you arrive. Do you have any indication what is lost?
Reply on 12-9-1995
(Between the sending of the latest question and receiving of Svjetlana’s answer lots of things happened in Bosnia. The UN and the NAVO started bombing targets near Sarajevo to try to convince the Bosnian Serbs to move their larger weapons from the ‘safe zone’, till today with no success. In Geneva the talks about a peace-settlement are progressing but if peace is near, nobody knows….)
SM : Yes, sending out mail is now difficult for me. See the reasons in my earlier answers! Once or twice my mail box was stolen, too. Some letters never arrive or arrived opened (visible to touch) or go to the customs where I have to pay enormous amount of money only “for seeing inside” (they tell so – inspection of the inside costs!). And nobody asks you, do you agree with it. The most of the mail from persons they already know arrives to me. The new persons are under suspicion for them and their letters are always opened or destructed or just don’t come! I have indications what is lost only if people write me 2nd or 3rd time and say what they’ve sent. Sometimes postmen robbed the letters or money. I know such cases. Fortunately, our postman is good. So, the robber is somebody else. Who? Sometimes they (the robbers) are newcomers or children (teenagers from bandit’s local groups). I can’t indicate what misses to me if the person doesn’t write me again. Or if I write to somebody new and he doesn’t answer, I can think 2 solutions: 1) he/she wrote, but it didn’t come, 2) he/she didn’t reply. What’s the truth?
Sometimes, I know some countries from where the letters don’t arrive well (or they’re missed and lost) – some from Belgium or from South Italy. It’s very often. Other countries are O.K.. Russia, Romania and Hungary are always problem. I never received any documentation or letter from these countries. Documentations from the USA are often stolen, because they are nice and interesting!
RJ : You also started now to work on a new zine called “Vidik”. What is this magazine about?
Reply on 7-10-1995
SM: Yes, I also started now to work on a new zine called “Vidik” (the View). What is the magazine about? First I have to say that “Vidik” is NOT a mail art magazine, it is not mine, private fanzine, but a state’s literature, poetry and art review, with strong judgement made by a group of croatian (local) writers, poets and painters, including me, as a director of Redaction. It’d go 6 times in a year and prints work from anonymous young artists – from 15 to 20 years old max. We hope to find people that are interested to collaborate (they’d be payed) in the local highschools and universities, as through the newspapers and TV-net too. Foreign authors are also welcomed (I’ll make translations of texts and poetry into croatian language, texts and poetry needed, but b/w photo’s are also welcome. When you’d send us works, send your CV too, thank you! We are preparing the first issue at the moment.
(between the receiving of Svjetlana’s answer and the sending out of my next question, a temporary stop has come to the fighting in Bosnia, but still the situation is unclear. The war might intensify, or real peace might become a reality.)
RJ : After you written your last answer, the situation in Bosnia has changed a lot. What is the news you get about the situation in your own country? I watch the local news (Dutch, German and English news) and see the CNN-news channel. Am I getting a good view about the situation from that?
Reply on 6-11-95
SM: The situation in Bosnia and Croatia now. I think the whole situation is getting better (peace?), but some places in Croatia are still occupied (Vukovar, Banaiya) and it’s needed to liberate them. Bosnia is still hell on Earth. When will it be changed? The NATO-troops will be welcomed. Our papers don’t talk so much about Bosnia! This week is ELECTION-week! Today I’ll go to vote. I don’t expect any changes at the top. All politicians only promise to change the bad inner situation (unemployment etc.), some of them want to stop the import of foreign goods (like in socialism). I can only hope they won’t win! We need good, new state, not an eastern closed country like before! I don’t know if CNN has right or not. I don’t have the time to watch TV!
RJ : The mail art network is changing rapidly now because some mail artists are changing their communication-forms and start using the electronic mail (e-mail) with the help of computers and computer-networks. Some do it because it is cheaper for them, but the letters become digital messages on a computer-screen. What do you think of these developments?
Reply on 25-11-1995
SM: I don’t believe that the new kinds of E-mail and copy computer art will replace mail art. These new kinds of “art movements” (for me) kills the sense of really valuable mail art works. Letter and art work remain the only existing valuable thing in mail art. Personal work on the paper or canvas or… anything but not an electronic, cold light of PC! I use the PC not for art (I haven’t modem), copy art from mailing zines, but I don’t feel it as a real art! It’s a way of communication for very few persons who have PC’s and fax. What about others? Mail art isn’t society of a “few artists” from the richest countries, but of the artists from all over the world. E-art work in the Museum? Oh, no! It’s anti-artistic! The cold world of cyberpunk. I mean, it’s similar to it from some point of view.
RJ : Well, I guess it is time to end this interview now. The peace seems nearer then ever with the signing of the peace-treaty in USA, and I hope the coming time things will get better in all parts of the former Yugoslavia. I want to thank you for this interview!
Marina Getaldicha, 5
THE MAIL-INTERVIEW WITH RAPHAEL NADOLNY.
19 – unfinished
Started on: 3-1-1995