iuoma.org – Interested in Mail-Art?

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

mail-interview with Daniel Plunkett – USA


41 – unfinished

Started on: 19-05-1995

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 7-10-1995 (internet)

DP : Ruud ? I thought I had sent this off already, but looks like I didn’t. Anyway ? I started becoming involved in mailart via cassette trading during the late 70’s. After the punk explosion there were lots of people trading tape letters, compilations, music, sounds etc. on tape. And from this network I started to receive news about mailart shows etc. So one day I just sort of started into it all, not knowing what I was getting in for! Each week would bring in new mail, artwork, and contacts which has continued today. I was already a big letter writer and wrote to several “pen pals” already, and to me mail art was great as I could now write people that were interested in some of the same things as I was, plus it was always exciting to see what arrived in the mail. Ok, well that is a brief answer anyway!

RJ : Most people know you from you magazine N D. When did you start that and what is the magazine about?

Reply on 10-10-1995 (internet)

DP : The first issue of N D appeared in 1982. At first it was planned that artists, musicians, etc would each send in a page of artwork or information. The first issue was mostly that; different pages of artwork from various networkers. Then beginning with N D 2, I did a couple of interviews (one with filmmaker Kurt Kren) and included those, along with a few reviews of magazines and audio releases. The magazine started out as a contact resource for mailart shows, audio projects and addresses.

Each issue has been the same kind of format with interviews, and then as much information and reviews as possible. So basically it started out as a networker tool, and still is, but probably now there is more focus on the interviews and trying to provide a history behind some of the artists.

I started the magazine with a lot of the ethics and rules that have been on?going withing the mailart world, by that I mean I would mention every thing that was sent in, everyone would receive a copy etc. But now, that has proved impossible, otherwise each issue of N D would be 2500 pages! We still cover a large majority of what we get in the mail (cassettes, shows, etc) but we simply dont have the time or room to mention it all.

Plus there are other excellent resoures such as Global Mail and Factsheet Five that are exhaustive in what they cover.

RJ : Is almost all the mail art you do connected to your magazine N D, or did you organize some other projects too?

Reply on 17-10-1995 (internet)

DP : Well, more and more over the years the mail art I do is connected with N D. Either by mailing the magazine to shows, or using the magazine to cover interviews and articles on mailart. The lines get pretty blurred anyway, it all becomes one on?going project. We did organize a show a few years back called “Undercurrents” which was a month long exhibition at a local museum. This was an exhibit of over 1000 cassette tapes from around the world, and we organized it in many ways like a mailart show. We tried to present a rough histoy of the cassette network since the 70’s and we also had guest speakers (John Held Jr, and Robin James) and artists who performed during the event. So although we focused on the cassette medium ? we tried to connect it to the larger networker activity going on too. Other projects we have done have been a couple of exhibitions of visual artists, performance art exhibition and events, and several concerts of touring musicians and groups.

RJ : Why and when did you start to use the e-mail for your communication?

Reply on 15-7-96 (e-mail)

DP : I started using email a little over 2 years ago now. I had been introduced to it before, but always sort of avoided it ? just what I needed was more mail! But actually it has worked out well. More and more people that I know have email accounts and it is a quick and cheap way to stay in touch. Also it has been interesting to see people discover all of this kind of underground activity via the net. People that would never really come across this world unless they wrote letters, found a magazine at a shop, etc.

So anyway, I just started using email once I finally felt “oh well, what the hell” and have slowly jumped into it. Of course, Michael Northam should be given credit for giving me the push to get the nd.org site set up and also he is the one who has designed the N D webpages.

RJ : You new N D #20 is about to come out. How does the process go of finishing one issue? Is there a fixed concept or is every new magazine a completely different undertaking?

Address mail-artist:

Daniel Plunkett – ND
P.O.Box 4144
AUSTIN , TX 78765

mail-interview with Clive Phillpot – UK



Started on 26-05-1997

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 28-8-97

CP : Dear Ruud: I guess I got involved in 1972 when I started writing a column in Studio International , the London art magazine. I was supposed to review things that nobody else reviewed – like exhibition catalogues , magazines , artist books , etc.

In the first column I mentioned Thomas Albright’s two articles on ‘Correspondence Art’ in Rolling Stone , also in 1972.

Slowly, in 1972 + 1973, I began to hear from the L.A. Artists’Publication , File Magazine , the Fluxshoe people , the Bay Area Dadaist / Dadaland , Ecart , and received mail art pieces as well as publications from them…….

RJ : Was this also the moment you started to consider yourself a ‘mail artist’?

reply on 10-9-1997

CP : Aha! Mail artist! I don’t think that I have ever consider myself a mail artist. I have corresponded with many mail artists, but usually about mail art. Though now & again I would correspond with something other than the regular letter. (I have responded to a few calls for mail art exhibitions…..)

The closest I might have come to this desciption might be as a sparring partner for Ray Johnson, mostly in the late eighties + early nineties. He kind of nudged me into mail art responses to his mail art.

RJ : The term ‘sparring partner’ is interesting. What kind of ‘punches’ did Ray send to you?

next answer on 22-9-1997

CP : Given your reaction, perhaps a boxing metaphor was not exactly right. What I had in mind by ‘sparring partner’ was along the lines of a champion needing lesser lights to keep him sharp and in shape – even if they couldn’t keep up with him over ten rounds. Sometimes , in sparring with Ray, I might raise my game to his level – other times not.

RJ : Maybe my question wasn’t specific enough either, With ‘punches’ I was actually asking for maybe a few examples of some ‘correspondances’ you had with Ray.

next answer on 1-11-1997

CP : OK, here’s one where I came off quite well. At some point, on the phone, Ray asked me if I knew who Anna May Wong was? Perhaps he had included an image of her in a mailing? I said I had no idea. He told me she was a 30’s (?) movie star.

After that Ray would refer to her – in mailings , or in conversation – because of my ignorance.

Then a while later, in 1992, he sent me a mailing of a bunny head with the words Anna May Shun in it, plus the question: “Who is Anna May Shun?”

I let the question run round my head for a day or two, then responded with a sheet on which I stuck a xerox of a photo of Chou-En Lai – with some additions – and the phrase: “Anna May Shun is the half-sister of Chou-En Gum!”

In the next mail I got a sheet with two bunny heads + a self-photo of Ray. The heads said: Judy Garland (upside down!) and Chou-En Gum! There was also a note telling me to call him about this. When I did, I asked him why he had put Chou-En Gum with Judy Garland? He said it was because Judy Garland’s real name (or her sister’s?) was Frances Gumm!!!

RJ : Ray was always interested in the names of movie stars and played a lot with names and images. Do you know where the use of the ‘bunny’ originated from?

next answer on 19-11-1997

(With the written answer Clive Phillpot sent a copy of the text he wrote for the catalog of Ray Johnson’s exhibition at the Goldie Paley Gallery at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia – Pennsylvania in 1991 , which contains a very good list of principal sources).

CP : No, I can’t remember Ray ever explaining their origins. In one sense , they just grew. When I was working on the catalog of Ray’s 1991 exhibition in Philadelphia, I assembled an evolutionary chart – derived from the letters in the 1976 North Carolina Museum publication.

He did tell me once that when he signed a letter with a bunny head, it was a self-portrait. But when others drew his bunny-heads, they became their self-portraits.

Then there was another shift at the end of the eighties, when the black scared-looking-bunny-heads began to include people’s names within their outlines. These heads have now become a kind of Ray Johnson icon.

RJ : In the beginning of the interview you mentioned that in 1972 you started with reviewing artists’ books. At the moment you are even lecturing about artists’ books. What is so fascinating about this form of art?

next answer on 1-12-1997

CP : The other worlds that books contain are fascinating – these worlds can be conjured up through words or images or both. And sometimes such books are visual, or verbi-visual, works of art.

The idea that some books can be hand-held movies also appeals to me, as well as the book as a random-access artwork.

Thinking about books as art in the context of mail art , I would say that their similar non-institutionalization is also appealing. For me, the multiple – usually printed – artists’ books are most interesting because they are conceived to be disseminated to a wide audience. Also books printed in editions can slip into bookstores very easily, but surprise people browsing because of their often unusual content.

RJ : You were the Director of the Library of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where there are lots of artist’s books as well. Do they also have a mail art collection?

next answer on 17-12-1997

CP : Yeah – that’s right. I had the pleasure of buying the Franklin Furnace artist book collection just before I left the USA and leaving it to be merged with the one I built from 1977-1994.

As for mail art in the library, there is some. For example, there are a few pieces from Ray Johnson that go back a bit. (He wrote to many of the curators over the years, and some of them passed pages, etc. , on to the library). But on the whole there is not a lot particularly because I thought it more appropriate for the library to be collecting documentation (as well as multiple art , like artists’ books).

So I bought a fair number of catalogues of mail art exhibitions, plus a lot of artist magazines, some of which were related to mail art. Of course, Ray Johnson managed to subvert all this :-

We had worked together on a little book during 1986-88 which was published by the Nassau County Museum in Long Island. After this, when I was writing a piece about him for the Philadelphia exhibition, he suggested that he create a book which would be made up of 26 parts (chapters?) , each of 26 pages, + that he would send me a few pages at a time through the mail.

In due course this is what happened – in 1990. Before the book petered out in the summer, I received about 50 pages at the library – of “A Book About Modern Art” – plus some short sequels.

This book is quite unique – so it went against my normal policy for mail art + for artists’ books! Trust Ray to be different.

RJ : I think that – unlike Fluxus – mail art is still quite unknown in the “official” art world. Is this true and will it stay like that?

next answer on 11-2-1998

CP : Yes, I am sure it is – in the official sense. But, on the other hand, Ray – who I keep coming back to (as my exemplar) – sent his mailings to so many critics , curators , directors & trustees of museums, that even if they could not recognize it , they experienced mail art.

I think that mail art will surface in museum exhibitions occasionally. When Ray gets the big retrospective that he deserves, surely mail art will become visible then?

But we must not forget that even as far back as 1970 , mail art was featured in a major museum , the Whitney Museum of Modern Art , thanks to Ray and to Marcia Tucker!

Perhaps a more important question is whether the acceptance of mail art by the “official” art world would be a good thing or a bad thing? Is mail art not more intersting as a personal expression in a guerilla relationship with museums? Museum shows might coopt mail art? Kill it?

RJ : Yes, you might be right there. I must confess that when I visited mail art exhibitions in galleries or museums (especially the postal museums DO exhibit nowadays) I was always more interested in the visitors (sometimes only mail artists….) than in the exhibited mail art. Did you also meet some of the mail artists you were in correspondence with?

(It took some time before I heard from Clive again, so I sent him another copy of the question. It turned out he had moved to another address)

next answer on 24-11-1998

CP : Yes, I did. Inevitably most were from New York and the East Coast; people such as Buster Cleveland, Carlo Pittore, and Crackerjack Kid, but also FaGaGaGa, Steve Perkins, and John Held. Plus artists from abroad such as Ulises Carrion.

Then there are all the fluxus artists. I have met most of them – except for three of the best, George Maciunas, George Brecht and Robert Filliou.

And one time, 1992 I think, I kinda hosted a congress that started at the Museum of Modern Art and finished at the Hilton Hotel in mid-town Manhattan, especially for Angela and Peter Netmail.

RJ : You mention both Fluxus-artists and Mail-Artists. Is the connection really that strong as some Mail-Artists like to make it?

next answer on 04-01-1999

(with the answer Clive Phillpot sent me a brochure of the exhibition “Artist/Author Contemporary Artists’Books” , an exhibition organized by the American Federation of Arts at several locations during 1998 and 1999 in the USA. In the brochure there was a text by Clive Phillpot: “A Concise History Of Artists’ Books”. Together with Cornelia Lauf he curated the exhibition).

CP : Well, when I think of Fluxus I don’t think of Mail-Art (except perhaps for the stamps of Georg Maciunas and Bob Watts), but when I think of Mail-Art I do think of Robert Filliou and George Brecht, of correspondence, and of their origination of the idea of “The Eternal Network” in 1968.

The postal system was vital to Fluxus as the principal means for distributing their art, but I don’t think that this means that they necessarily created Mail-Art. Fluxus is much more relevant to the histories of the multiple and performance. However, I think that Ben Vautier’s ‘Postman’s Choice’ postcard is a Mail-Art classic.

RJ : Are there more “Mail-Art classics” you remember right now?

next answer on 2-2-1999

CP : One that I think of as a classic, was something from Ray Johnson to me. I would guess that it wasn’t the first – or last – time that he used the idea, but, as ever, he responded specifically to the occasion.

In 1987 Ray asked me to join him is documenting a performance that he had done at the Nassau County Museum just outside New York. He told me about the event, showed me photos, and suggested that I ask him some questions. later I did just this, and sent him some questions in the mail. He responded subsequently with what seemed to me to be nonsensical answers. I had to admit to him on the phone that I didn’t understand his response.

The next thing that happened was that I got a piece of paper folded like a kid’s airplane in an envelope from Ray. On unfolding the plane, I found that it was a photocopy from a book on Picasso’s work. Ray had underlined odd passages, thereby revealing to me the origins of his mysterious answers. (Though not exactly what he had meant by them.)

Then a week or so later I got a letter in the mail that had been sent to “Monsieur Picasso” at an address in Paris. It was inscribed “inconnu” and stamped “return to sender” (in French). The reason why I got it – since I never sent a letter to Picasso, even when he was alive – was that the return address in the top left corner of the envelope was MINE!

I guess it’s an old trick. But a neat one. A letter sent from Long Island had been sent on a long journey via Paris to me in New York, thanks to the efficiency of the post office, and the kindness of the people now living at Picasso’s old address.

I was very amused by Ray’s manoeuvre. But the final piece of my story took me several more weeks to unravel.

Some time later I looked again at the xerox from the Picasso book. Then the penny dropped. The work illustrated was a cubist work of 1912 entitled “The Letter”. But even through the fragmented plane of the painting I was able to make out that the painted letter was addressed to “Monsieur Picasso” at the very same address to which Ray had despatched his letter for me!

I am so glad I got to know Ray.

RJ : Did you save the items you received from Ray or are they in some kind of archive?

(Clive Phillpot’s answer came after a few months because he was in New York, to give a lecture on artist books at the New York Public Library.)

next answer on 18-5-1999

CP : Yes, I have saved everything Ray sent me, from 1981 to late 1994 a few months before his suicide. They are part of my own archives. I also have notes of his phone calls over many years – I still need to transcribe and expand these…..

As well as sending things to me personally he also sent a few things to me especially for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, with specific instructions that they were for the Library collections. He even asked me to send him letters confirming that these pieces were safely in the Museum. The principal piece was the Book About Modern Art, which was made up of several mailings of three or four sheets each.

RJ : You mentioned your Archives. What do they look like?

next answer on 23-5-1999

CP : Well, I guess they look much like other people’s , you know lots of files. As for their contents and arrangements, I imagine that they too are not very different from other people’s solutions.

There is a section on my writing comprising typescripts and photocopies (plus all the eventual books, catalogs and magazines in my library). There are many files of correspondence with artists, and about art. Also artist files – which include announcements of exhibitions, press releases, cuttings and reproductions of articles, essays, etc. There are also some specific files on artist books, and about book artists. And as well as these art-related files there are some others on miscellaneous things, and correspondence from friends and relatives. And if you really want the nitty-gritty of their organization, I think most of these are organized by name and/or by date. (There are only so many ways to skin a cat.)

I suppose that I should add that I have discs that archive most of what I have written on the computer, plus some email messages.

RJ : Yes, that computer. Do you like working with computers?

next answer on 31-8-1999

CP : I like working with some computers. At home I have an old Macintosh; I really enjoy the simplicity and logic of its software. But at work I have a Windows-based PC. Ugh! I find it amazing that this cluncky software rules the world. Business has won out over technology.

Much as I enjoy computers, the thing that has really changed the way I work – and maybe think – is word-processing. In fact word-processing helps one to write more like one thinks. I can hardly believe that I once used a typewriter with carbonpaper, witeout, etc.

And almost as important as that facility is email. When I moved back to England I felt so cut off for the few months it took me to settle down, and before I set up email again. When one has friends – and work opportunities – in many countries, email is unsurpassed for keeping in touch, though there are still times when letter writing is important.

RJ : How did you become so interested in letter writing? Is it just connected to your work in which you communicate with so many different people worldwide, or is it the other way round? (So that you got interested in communicating worldwide through letter writing)

(It might look like a strange question, but I wonder because in my case I learned through my father -at the age of 7- the thrills of communications worldwide and because of doing the same stumbled onto the mail-art network)

(answer on 9-10-1999)

CP : I guess I always wrote letters to friends and relatives whom I couldn

mail-interview with Clemente padin – Uruguay




Started on: 3-12-1994

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: 31-12-1994

CP : My first experiences in Mail Art date from 1967 when with my latin-american friends Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Guillermo Deisler and D

mail-interview with Chuck Welch – USA

Mail-interview with Chuck Welch
(Crackerjack Kid)

About the interviewed artist:

Chuck Welch has been a leading practitioner of mail art since 1978. His first book : “Networking Currents,” (1986) is a pioneering text about mail art subjects and issues. Last year he edited mail art’s first “ezine” “Netshaker On-Line”. Currently, Welch’s Eternal Network Mail Art Anthology is being published by University of Calgary Press. Copies are available.

RJ :Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?

CW :My first exposure to mail art and subsequent participation is linked to the historic “Omaha Flows System” held at Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska and curated by Fluxus artist Ken Friedman. So my evolvement began in April 1973, but at the time I didn’t know that this major exhibition was the precedent for all mail art shows that followed. My active involvement in mail art occurred in 1978 when I began corresponding under the nom de plume of crackerjack kid. I chose that pseudonym because crackerjack is a well-known American phrase and is also a candied popcorn which contains a surprise in every box. I turned the candy box phrase to suit my own mail art objectives, “to place a surprise in every mailbox.”

In a paragraph I can best describe how I’ve come full circle in my mail art interest. My initial attraction to mail art is difficult to analyze. I must be crazy because I spend about $1,600 each year on postage, enough to buy a new powerMac computer. Who says mail art isn’t expensive? But the mail art form fascinated me not because of the media, but because the message is what bonds us all in a global community. You see, mail art crosses borders between individuals, nations and cultures and makes your mailbox a central grounding space for the merging of art and life. At its best mail art is open, honest, democratic and collaborative. At its worst mail art is selfish, petty, factionalistic and clubish. Historically, mail art has traveled an intermedia course that diminished distances between communication forms as divergent and different as copier machines and telecommunication. As the international post declines will mail art too? I think not! The spirit of mail art is already transforming as the ethereal, eternal network in cyberspace-what I’ve termed in my 1991 telenetlink neologism, “emailart”.

RJ :It seems that at the moment two networks, that have existed beside each other for many years, are gradually being influenced by each other. What can the Internet mean to mail-art and visa-versa?

CW :I developed the idea of Telenetlink in 1991 to explore how the on line internet and mail art communities might interconnect. That process is still evolving primarily through my widespread distribution of contact lists, but if mail art is a house and internet is the street, both forms will link in private homes and public spaces. In North America even the homeless have access to Internet through countless public libraries. The story is quite different in Europe where governments and industries must decentralize to join Internet. This means letting go of control, de regulating authority. Some experts say Europe is four years behind North America in understanding the potential of internet and Japan is almost without a clue. An interesting historical link exists between the internet and mail art and that occurred when pioneering mail artists quit the mailstream in the mid 1970s and created the first on line artists networks. Today, there are thousands more on line artists in North America than there are mail artists. Both communities will become acquainted and merge through Telenetlink. Then we’ll begin to understand what both communities will become to one another.

RJ :For me the internet with the E-mail and speed is still different compared to the mail art network because of the digital form. Digital art is just a fragment of the total art that is produced. Some say that the Internet is just another way of communication besides the traditional mail-,fax-, telex- and phone-networks. What is this potential of the internet in your eyes compared to the other networks I mentioned?

CW:To network or knotwork, that is the question. The message (emailart) and messenger (networker) are the medium, not cyberspace or snail mail. The emailartist is an invisible messenger who breathes the ether of cyberspace. The aesthetic of form in cyberspace is formlessness. Form is fluxed forever: time, speed, and distance are distorted, fragmented, diffused, and shattered. And, as if this induced anxiety isn’t enough, we can expect our notions of a virtual reality will continually change as technology transforms the tools at hand.

When you talk about cyberspace being primarily a digital experience, I would point out that Internet carries sounds, visual images, and motion through software like Macromind Director. Internet then, IS MAIL, IS FAX, IS TELEX, IS SOUND, IS MOTION, IS VISUAL IMAGE all wrapped together through the existing telephonic technology such as fiber optics.

Is this better than what traditional mail art offers? It isn’t a question of what’s better. Perhaps it is a choice, or preference we make based on what we already know. Cyberspace isn’t paradise, but neither is mail art. Both have major pitfalls and both share problems of community, of censorship, of systems regulating, controlling, and centralizing authority. Mail art networkers have grappled with these issues long before cyberspace came along. How can our experiences help shape and form new communication spaces? I think mail artists have much to offer as does cyberspace. Both forms will merge in the streets of networking. This is the inevitable future of mail art, whether mail artists like it or not.

RJ :One of the things you do on the internet is your magazine Netshaker, which I received through the net from you too. Does the concept from a e-zine differ a lot from the zines we know in mail-art? Does the e-zine bring new possiblities (or problems) besides the speed of sending?

CW:If concept includes the objective of building on line communities, encouraging collaboration, debate, presenting projects, etc., then my “Netshaker On Line” is almost identical to the snail mail version of “Netshaker.”. But as a networking tool, “Netshaker On Line has a much greater potential for reaching an enormous international on line audience with speed and with little expense.

In discussing “ezines” I want to clarify that this term is an invention of my own, an abbreviated form of “electronic zine.” Prior to “Netshaker On Line” there were no mail art zines on Internet, only formal “magazines” such as Art Com and Post Modern Culture. Part of the challenge of the Networker Telenetlink has been to lead the way in pointing out possibilities. The definition of mail art “ezines” will evolve as other mail artists experiment with the form. For now, it is important to start the idea of “ezines” moving. Now, I see that Mark Bloch and Guy Bleus have made their zines available over Internet. Vittore Baroni wrote last week that he would be going on line next Fall, so it is possible that his “Arte Postale” will go on line too.

Ezines are primarily text based rather than visual, but this doesn’t mean I can’t replicate visual images as seen in mail art zines. Graphics can be scanned, compressed, and transmitted over internet by GIF, an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format. How can you move a graphic image over the network?

Pictures can be shipped as ASCII text, but the recipient must have software on their own computer to put it in shape. Downloading visual images can be a boring, consuming process if you’ve got a slow modem, say 2,400 bps. rather than 19,000 bps. Plus visual images consume a lot of space on disks and computers. If your personal computer is directly linked to a mainframe, computer speed isn’t an issue. But quite a few artists like me are connected to mainframes with modems, and this is a problem because I can tie up my phone lines for one or two hours downloading a single photograph. These access problems will be solved as fiber optic technology evolves.

I think it would be a mistake to think that the ezine should function in the fashion that hands on mail art zines do. Mail art zines combine sound, vision, and touch with tangible form. Even the smell of fresh off set print has an appealing sensation that is first hand, and not simulated. Remember, I am a papermaker, a craftsperson who likes to work by hand. It’s ludicrous to think of taking a computer monitor to bed like you can a mail art zine.

Mail art zines appeal directly to our senses and there is nothing simulated or compromised in the interaction. So I think it would be foolish to expect the ezine to replicate this experience. But you must remember that mail art zines will not compete with the virtual reality of an electronic zine a magazine that can stimulate the senses with mixed media techniques combining sound, vision, and motion. I can present, for instance, an ezine snapshot to my readers of a group mail art portrait taken at Katz’s Deli in NYC. Readers can click any mail artist in the portrait and hear the actual voice of that person speaking. Or with buttons mixed with text, readers could click a button for a video clip of Carlo Pittore eating salami. The interactive play could be hilariously interactive, even inviting the reader to add on, splice in all kinds of outrageous information. Ezines will be entirely interactive forms available on internet listservs, the World Wide Web or newsgroups.

RJ :Yes, I know it is all technically possible, the things that you mention. But the computer-tools that the mail-artists have at hand normally aren’t up to it. An example is the TAM-Bulletin I tried to upload to the DDS-Unix server. I then found out that it doesn’t accept ‘extended ASCII-signs like :

mail-interview with Bern Porter – USA



Started on: 29-8-1995

RJ : Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?

Reply on 12-9-1995

BP : I invented mail art, November 11. 1913

RJ : Why November 11th 1913? What happened on that day that you decided to start to send out mail art?

Reply on 19-10-1995

BP : Sitting together on the floor of his 8×8 foot apartment east side New York I asked Ray: “What are you doing?” He answered: “Being myself.”

(the next question to Bern Porter I wrote with pencil on a two-color blue silk-screen printing of Ray Johnson)

RJ : Ray answered “Being myself”. So, who was Ray? I would like to know.

Reply on 20-3-1996

BP : I asked Ray: “What are you doing?” He answered: “Being myself, average weight, average height, non drinking, non smoking, daily on the uproad to survival.”

I maintain at a library here “The Bern Porter Collection of Contemporary Letters” and wish to have the complete set of everything you have ever done. Advise cost delivered to me U.S.A. B.P U.S. Dollars in bankcheck form.

RJ : “Everything I ever have done?” That is difficult. Because all the mail art I sent out isn’t mine anymore. All I produce is sent out into the network and I only have spare issues of magazines and copies of some pieces of mail. Everything I received and kept so far, that is something I have. Are all the letters you get (like e.g. this one) going to be part of “The Bern Porter Collection of Contemporary Letters”, or is is just a “part of your life” that forms this collection? Just currious, what is in the collection?

Address mail-artist:

22 Salmond Road,
BELFAST , ME 04915

mail-interview with arto posto – USA


RJ :Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional
question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?

AP:Can’t tell exactly when I started mailing art. It was with an artist friend
who had moved to California, Susan Petelik, and she always added art to her
envelopes, letters, etc., tucked art inside. She inspired me to do the same,
and I started sending back to her in like manner, than to other friends. That
was during the late 1960s. I wasn’t actually aware of the international mail
art movement as such until about eight to ten years ago. (So many of us were
doing mail art without having a name for it. Still are many such people. I
bump into them all the time.) That was when I sent to my first mail art call,
and I haven’t stopped sending since. It’s gotten to be a serious addiction.
Chuck Welch asked me just a little over a year ago about how much mail per
year I send and receive and I had no idea. Had never counted. However,
because of his question, I started numbering outgoing pieces with a
numbering stamp on February 23, 1994. As of today, a little over a year later,
I have sent at least 1716. (I sometimes forget to use that numbering stamp
on outgoing mail art.) I may have first seen mention of mail art in the
Rubber Stamp Album by Joni K. Miller and Lowry Thompson in, first
published in 1978 and still in print here in the U.S.A. It inspired me to get
involved with rubber stamping and to subscribe to Rubberstampmadness,
now a very slick magazine catering more to mainstream rubber stampers than
to mail artist types, I think.

When living in Minneapolis, Minnesota about eight to ten years ago, I took a
workshop at the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts on mail art. It was done
in conjunction with the Walker Art Center, a wonderful contemporary art
museum there. We modified text by – draft, can’t remember famous artists’
name now, type set on an old press – added our modifications and art to it,
then mailed it all over the world to a list of mail artists that Scott Helms
had, asking these artists to modify our modifications and mail them back to
the Walker museum. The returned pieces were bound into a book that is now
in their collection, and the Walker gave each participant a photocopy of the
book, and had a wee party when we got back together to see the results. As a
result of that, we started a rubber stamp/mail art group in Minneapolis, and
it is still going strong, I think. The Bag Lady, whom I introduced to mail art
and invited to that wee party, still lives in Minneapolis and participates in
that group, and is coming to spend a week with me, to make art and play on
the computer, in just a couple of weeks. And so the networking goes. I have
since lived in St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; and now in Atlanta. In
each of these cities I have formed groups that meet periodically to talk mail
art, and have had mail artist visitors and house guests from all over the
world, some of whom I had never met in person before, but knew through the
mails, coming through or to each city. Part of this is due to my active
involvement on Prodigy, then on America Online, two commercial computer
bulletin boards on which there is active talk about and resulting exchanges of
mail art which I initiated. My internet address is artoposto@aol.com. Ask
away if you have additional interview questions.

RJ :Could you tell a bit more about how you got into using the computer for
communication. When did it start and when did you enter the internet?

AP:Ruud, I started using computer bulletin boards at the same time I started
using a Mac regularly, in 1986. I connected to local bulletin boards in
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Didn’t know a soul who owned a Mac. Learned lots
about how to use them through the help of people on those local boards.
Those boards were run by Sysops who did it for the pleasure of it. They
weren’t commercial boards. When Prodigy came out in the U.S., I signed on
and that was were I first started talking with others on-line about mail art,
and the movement. Hmmm. When was that? 1990 or 1991. We started with a
small group of women, mostly women, talking about rubber stamping. I think
there were just about twelve of us. They were already exchanging their
stamped art, many had been for many, many years, but I was the only one, as
I remember, who was involved in the mail art movement internationally, in
sending to mail art calls (as opposed to rubber stamping stores contests).
Within less than two years we had 400 people that we knew of discussing
rubber stamping and mail art and book making and related areas. Lots of
people are “lurkers,” so who knows actually how many of us there were
reading that board. I did an article on the Prodigy stampers for
Rubberstampmaddness (a national publication very popular in the U.S.
among rubber stampers – slick paper, color, thick. It carries mail art calls.) I
also did an “on-line class” on mail art, and a “by mail class” on mail art. It is
hard to explain the difference to those who have never participated in the
network between mainstream rubber stamp exchanges and the more quirky
type of stuff one so often receive in the mail art network. These “classes”
were my attempt to share with the interested people on-line some of the
differences – no jury, no fees, less complex work (generally), what artistamps
were, what documentation was, how one got involved, matching up people
with like interests, how to issue your own mail art calls, what some reference
sources were (Correspondence Art, for instance), where to see mail art
archives, etc., etc. Public posts and learning and sharing techniques and
developing intimate friendships were (are) very common on Prodigy, as they
are on America Online, the service I am currently using. (I have also been on
E-world, CompuServe, and GEnie – all commercial services in the U.S.)
Prodigy used to NOT charge by the minute or the hours. You just paid a
monthly fee, and you could use it all you wanted to. They grew so fast – got
millions of subscribers – then changed their policy to a basic fee for “x”
number of hours, then a per minute charge after that. Many of us jumped
ship when that happened. AOL is more user friendly to Mac users, I think, so
I switched over to AOL a couple of years ago. When AOL got Internet access
(still limited, not total, I think), I started thrashing about a bit in those
waters – never became a surfer. Won’t, either, because I don’t want to spend
my time on bbs. Already have too many contacts, too many delicious things
to do online, too many questions coming to me. Want to play with my Mac
more. Make more mail art. Snail mail more art. (In the past year I sent
almost 1700 pieces of snail mail.) I much prefer the kinds of relationships
that I have developed on Prodigy and AOL to those via the Internet thus far.
Internet messages seem to be sent out with carbon copies to lots of people.
Less intimate friendships have developed. Public threads don’t seem as
interesting to me. Subscribing to things brings in treatises. I love getting
Global Mail Electric, though. It’s super. Still, there is something lovelier, to
me, in the hard copy version. Most people I have met on the Internet have
no experience with commercial bbs and really don’t know much about them
and the very warm friendships that develop. Such fun to watch people’s
public posts and decide “I want to KNOW that person. I like the way she
thinks. I like how she shares information so freely.” Does that happen for you
on the Internet in public posts, too?

Well, I’m off with favorite husband to dinner, so will dash. Hope you don’t
have to pay to receive this long reply to your short question. Fun to contact
you on-line.

Hugs,arto posto (note lower case – I’m not “Arto Posto”; AOL won’t let me
use lower case initial “a” for arto, but all my other mail to you, I think, has
been “arto posto”)

RJ :For me, the E-mail only seem to have a few advantages (like speed of
sending and the fact that you can transfer the texts you get easily), but the
snail-mail is still my favorite. I see your wonderful & colorful envelopes (also
done by computer) and wondered why you like this computer-work so much?

ap :Ruud, I discovered computers after being in a very bad auto accident
that makes handwriting and doing many things by hand painful for me.
Keyboarding and working on the computer is not. I think that is, in part, why
I do so much of my mail art by computer. Another is that I am endlessly
fascinated by the amazing things that can be done with a powerful Macintosh
and PostScript printers. I have always loved the beauty of type and bought an
IBM Selectric typewriter because one could change fonts and do variable
spacing. This was about twenty years ago, though I first used a Selectric when
they first came out, around 1957. Hard to believe it now, but back in the
1970s that TYPEWRITER cost about $1,000. At the time I felt very guilty
about being so self-indulgent as I had no business use for the machine, just a
love of seeing the print come out so elegantly on the page. I was writing
poetry, and it was right after my accident, and I loved the LOOK of what I
was writing so much more as it came from that typewriter. So glad now I did
that. It has led to my giving myself permission to buy a DecMate II dedicated
word processor and daisy wheel printer to write a book, then, upon seeing
what the Mac could do, to buy increasingly powerful Macs. Now you can buy
an entry level Mac for less than $1,000. Amazing, when you think about it –
twenty years later something so much more powerful and versatile at the
same price.

It is owning Macs that gave me the courage to switch from writing to playing
with images. And it is playing with them that led me into the mail art
movement as I wanted to share my computer experiments with others and to
get back stuff others were creating on theirs. It took a long time to connect
with many who were actually using computers, as you are, in mail art, but
meanwhile I have had my mailbox museums fill with art created in so many
different ways and enjoy the variety. I also think that my use of my computer
and printers has led some others with computers to want to make more use
of them in their mail art, particularly women I have met on-line who were
primarily rubber stampers. Many had never thought of using their computers
to do art and are now happily creating artistamps, wee books, etc. using their

Because my husband bought a color thermal wax printer for his business, and
I teach him how to use all new computer equipment and install all the
software, I was exposed to the wonderful possibilities of color printing and
got one of my own to use in my mail art. And since the thermal wax would
print on only special paper, have since bought a PostScript inkjet so I can
print on textured papers and envelopes. LEARNING has always been one of
the major pleasures in my life, and now that I am physically unable to trot
off to universities to take courses for the joy of it, learning new computer
programs and new ways to use my printers has provided substitute joys. I
have about 300 megs on my hard drive, and almost all of it is software. (I
keep stuff I create on removable disks.) These programs have provided years
of learning experiences. Also, it is great to be able to go back and print out
some piece of mail art I created several years ago when it is apropos to some
call or interest of a new networker I have been exposed to. It also helps me
treat mail art as a process, not a product, a process of learning,
experimenting, trying new things, and sharing them with others.

I, like you, view e-mail and on-line bulletin board exchanges primarily as a
way to get to know people better, to connect with others in the mail art
movement, and to introduce new people to the idea of this great back and
forth of mailed art.

RJ :What do you tell a newcomer about mail-art to get them interested? Do
you think you can succeed in telling what mail-art is to a non-mailartist?

(Ruud, here’s my response to your last question. Because of my disability, I
can’t go back to see if I have repeated myself endlessly, so will trust you to
edit out anything that is repetitious or totally boring. Have the feeling I may
have covered much of this in answering previous interview questions.)

ap:Ruud, I find it much more difficult to TELL someone what mail art is
than to show it to them. For that reason I got the idea of boxing up dozens of
pieces I had had up on my huge bulletin boards and routing it to those who
had expressed interested in seeing what mail art is all about. Thus far
twenty-seven women requested to be added to the list, and the box of mail
art is currently making its way around the U.S. As each person gets the box,
she posts enthusiastically on the computer bulletin board America Online.
This arouses additional interest, and more people e-mail me to ask that they,
too, get a chance to see the box of mail art. Several years ago I did a similar
thing with ‘zines. Another routed mailing was of documentation. With local
people, I invite them into my home to see the mail art archives. I make the
same offer to those interested in mail art who will be visiting Atlanta on
business or vacation. Because my net is wide, there is such variety in the
work I receive that almost everyone falls in love with the work of a number
of mail artists whose work they see, and they want to start exchanges
immediately. It is great fun to me to see whose work appeals to whom.

Since we have an active group of rubber stampers, paper makers, book
makers, collage enthusiasts, painters, etc., all exchanging sources of supplies,
new techniques, art enthusiasms, etc., on-line, when I post mail art calls,
there are always questions about what a “mail art call” is, and I respond on
the public boards about traditions behind these calls. Some get very excited
about art shows with no juries, no commercial impetus. They want to know
what “documentation” is. They are excited about the prospect of
international exchanges. Some want to initiate exchanges with me and learn
more about mail art that way. The idea of art as “process” tempts some – to
get away from the idea of preciousness and perfection tempts. Others have
never heard of the idea that THINGS can be mailed, things that are not
enclosed in boxes, but mailed naked, like the life preserver I just received
the other day.

Some rubber stamp store owners in other cities have asked to have my mail
art calls to display in their stores. Just the past year both my Empty
Envelope call and the Abuse call shows have been on display. Some want to
issue their own mail art calls and ask about how to go about this and how to
do documentation. I’ve sent two boxes of wee books I have received in mail
art exchanges to Franklin Stein of National Stampagraphic as he learned
about wee books on-line, and wanted to do articles about them in his
publication. The word about mail art exchanges get spread that way, too. I’ve
shared with him names of wee book makers who might be willing to write
such articles for his magazine.

I also tell them about Dada and Fluxus and suggest books they can read to
learn more about mail art. I send reprints of articles on the subject from
various magazines or pass on copies of essays written by mail artists on the
subject. Zines appeal to some, and I either pass on some I have received or
give them names and addresses of sources. Some see mail art in quantity for
the first time by going to a mail art show in their area that they have heard
about on the boards. Some get lured into the movement because they have
read about artistamps on the board or want to see sheets of them, and once
seeing them try a sheet themselves. I offer names and addresses of other
mail artists whose work seems of the type that might particularly interest
someone who has sent her first piece to me and want to get more involved. I
tell them where archives are located if there are such treasure sources in the
cities they live in. I matchmake on-line by telling those new to the board of
others on the board with similar interests. There is a hunger among some to
finally connect with others who will exchange with them, enthuse over what
they do, share ideas. Many are women who have been doing mail art, sending
it to friends and relatives for years, but have never received anything back.
To suddenly find a whole network of people all around the world who love
doing something similar boggles their minds, makes them feel less “odd,”
increases their daily joy as they eagerly go to the mailbox. And, of course,
once we have a whole network on-line of people who ARE mail artists, who
begin participating in the movement, I back off and let THEM explain
documentation, mail art calls, ‘zines, artistamps, mail art shows, how to
connect with others, etc. I’m at this point now with my participation on
America Online, as I was on Prodigy several years ago. My e-mail has gotten
so heavy that I seldom have time to read the public boards anymore or to
post on them. Others have taken over to spread the word to newcomers. The
net widens. And I sit back and increase the DEPTH and intimacy of my
exchanges with the network I have already developed as a result of on-line
participation. Those newer to the movement who are wanting to widen their
participation and share their knowledge and enthusiasm do more of the
posting in the Mail Art, Artistamps, Wee Books folders on America Online. I
stay in touch with those on other services, including the Internet and pass on
to them mail art calls, etc.

I really do think computer bulletin boards can serve as a great impetus to
luring people into the movement, but I, like you, continue to prefer the snail
mail exchanges. A downside for me for this participation has been that my
network is now much too wide to be kept up with. I am always behind in
responding to received mail art. Hundreds see one’s posts on a computer
bulletin board and one’s net can expand so rapidly that it is impossible to
keep up. Too much mail art? I used to think that would be impossible. I’m at
the point now where I feel somewhat overwhelmed. This can lead to burnout,
I think, so I am reevaluating my participation in the movement. I want to
keep mail art as a totally guilt free, joyous aspect of my life. HOW to do this
and yet respond to all the new people who send to me is something I have
not yet worked out. I wonder how others’ participation has evolved over the
years, what changes they have made in the way they are active in the mail art
movement. Perhaps you have interviewed mail artists who have talked with
you about this issue?

RJ :Well, how others have dealt with that, you will have to read in the other
interviews. You seem to be very productive when it comes to Arti-stamps.
How do you design them? Do you always use the computer for your art?

(Besides the E-mail version I sent arto posto also a snail-version together
with Michael Leigh’s interview. Together with my questions I normally send
some other text to, the normal correspondence besides the interview.
Sometimes the interview and the private correspondence mingle, and this
happens here too. So the next answer from arto posto is put down here
completely as it arrived via internet:)

Date: Mon, 1 May 1995 06:48:16 -0400
From: Artoposto@aol.com
To: tam@dds.nl
Subject: Re: next question

ap :Ruud, just accidentally sent reply to your other e-mail address, and am
repeating it to the tam address as I think previous message sent to the other
did not reach you.

I would like to see you include your P.S. to me on the subject of managing
participation on the movement as I think it is honest and open and would be
of interest to others. I’m repeating it below so you can include it if you will.

RJ: P.S. I don’t answer all the mail I receive. For the snail mail I probably
answer 50% or less, and the computer-messages I get, I answer about 30% or
so. I only answer the things that are interesting for me to react. I don’t feel
obliged to answer the mail I get. I know that most ‘older’ mail-artists work
that way. If you want their attention, then you have to send them something
to ‘trigger’ them to react. I discovered that years ago, and since then I
became in contact with some very interesting persons who make wonderful
art. Also I only send my larger art to people like that (an example: I just
received a large oil painting on wood from America, and in return I sent a
large 12-color silkscreen print. But this is not really mail-art, but the
exchange of art. Besides a mail-artists I make the traditional ‘art’ too)

The next question: You seem to be very productive when it comes to
Arti-stamps. How do you design them? Do you always use the computer for
your art?

ap: Yes, for reasons I’ve previously discussed in this interview, now I almost
always use my computer for my work. I no longer paint or sculpt or do fiber
art. Unlike you, I do not make “larger art” or do or exchange art other than
mail art.

I am, indeed, very productive of artistamps having made dozens and dozens
of sheets in the last couple of years. Did three new sheets just this week. Not
sure I understand your question about HOW I design them. Could you tell
me more about what you want to know about that?

P.S. Received your snail mailing and the two interviews. Quite fascinating.
I’ve exchanged with A-1 over the years and love Michael’s and Hazel’s senses
of humor and stuff I received from them though I am less a recycler than he,
and Rudi Rubberoid and Ian Gunn some of the others in this
genre. Participated in A-1’s Thematic Tape Exchange a couple of years ago,
but I’m not really into video or cassette tape exchanges. I prefer hard copy
image exchanges, I guess. ML’s comment that “Archives should contain the
best work” (page A-4) borders on something which seems anti-mail art to me
– isn’t it “jurying”? When I sent a box of my archives to Crackerjack, he wrote
back asking if he could recycle some of the stuff that was less interesting to
him – a similar idea, I think, but I replied that I wanted the archive intact, or
he could send the stuff he didn’t want back to me as I think to get a true feel
for what mail art is all about, one needs to see the whole range, not just what
a particular person particularly likes. And, again, what has appealed to me
about the movement is the non-judgmental aspects of it – the hanging of ALL
work sent, etc. When I document I also try to include all images if I am going
to include any. This would be impossible, of course, if one were to get
hundreds of pieces. That’s why I went to documenting for every ten pieces
received in my most recent calls on abuse. It was a way for me NOT to “jury”
or “present only the ‘best’ in the documentation, but to still be able to afford
to send documentation to all with all people’s work shown in documentation.
Each person will handle her participation in the movement in her own way,
and that is as it should be, in my opinion. I bring up these issues only as
things to think about…not as RIGHTS and WRONGS. I like it that mail art
really does not have hard and fast “rules.” I do, at times, though, feel that
there are subsections of the movement that function as old boy’s networks
where the same people’s work is commented upon, depicted in
documentation, written about in publications, etc. again and again and again.
This seems a bit like repetition of the very reason mail art got started –
wasn’t it protest against museums and galleries and art magazines showing
only insiders work, pre-judging, etc. that led to the idea of mail art
networking in the first place? The basic tenants of the movement also make
me uncomfortable about “government grants” to do shows, travel, etc., as it is
associated with the movement. Personally I like to stick with the “no money
exchanges hands” aspects, the exchange of art outside of connections with
funding agencies, etc. I see this trend towards sponsored travel, sponsored
shows, selecting specific pieces from one’s archives to display, offering ‘zines
for sale, asking others to help with costs, etc. as a veering off from the
essence of the spirit of the mail art movement into another realm. I can
certainly understand that there are practical reasons WHY it occurs. It’s just
not a part of the movement that appeals to me, nor one I personally care to
get involved with.

You have a government sponsored bulletin board, so obviously you feel
differently. I would be interested in your thoughts on this subject. Warm
hugs, arto posto

RJ :It seems your P.S. is as interesting as mine. Although I would like to
answer it would make the interview a discussion and that wasn’t the
intention. If you want my views then you should interview me maybe? In
your P.S. you made mention of your newest project. Could you tell a bit more
about that?

ap :For about the past year I have had ongoing mail art calls on the topics of
spousal/partner abuse and child abuse. To date there have been 108
submissions, mostly from women, but some from men as well, I’m happy to
say. Have received really powerful, touching work! Thus far the show has
been up for two months in northern Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin and
was just shown the other day at a big rubber stamp convention in California.
In September and October of 1995 it will be displayed in Michigan. I’m
hoping the show on this important social issue will travel for a couple of
years. In the past couple of days I have sent follow-up documentation to all
participants, telling them where the show has been and will be mounted. This
is in addition to the small book documentations I do for every ten
participants. I did the follow-up so that those who were wishing to expand
their mail art network would have additional names of people with similar
social concerns, and to let them know where the show would be in case they
might be able to see the whole body of work.

There has been discussion on the electronic bulletin board that I am on
recently in the Mail Art folder about documentation. Some posted that they
had submitted pieces to calls over a year ago, but had never received
promised documentation. (I was amazed to learn that so many others
actually keep track of when they send to shows and when they receive
documentation.) I felt a bit uncomfortable about their unhappiness as I
frequently post calls and some send to their first calls in their lives as a
result of these posts and I can well remember how eagerly I looked forward
to receiving my first few pieces of documentation years ago. I responded to
the posts that STUFF few pieces of documentation years ago. I responded to
the posts that STUFF happens in life, and that perhaps some who intended
to do documentation found themselves unable to do so. I also heard from
some snail mail mail art networkers over the past year that they are getting
disillusioned about sending to mail art shows and not receiving promised
documentation. Since I send to lots of calls and don’t keep track of who
documents and who doesn’t, I have no feel for how often this happens. I do
think it is of interest that several people apparently feel a change is going on
in the network in this area.

Ruud, I feel I’ve talked on and on – more than anyone could possibly care to
read, so if you don’t mind, I would like to quit talking about my mail art
involvement and spend more time DOING IT. Thanks for asking me to
participate in your Interview Project, and if I’ve left something out you really
want to know more about, let me know. Also if some other person does
interview you, hope you will send me a copy of that interview.

RJ:Thank you for the interview!

Address mail-artist:

199 14th n.e. / Apt. 2505
GA 30309-3691

E-mail : artoposto@aol.com

address interviewer:

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


e-mail : r.janssen@iuoma.org

mail-interview with Anna Boschi – Italy



Started on: 15-5-1995

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: 19-8-1995

AB : I have been involved in mail art since 1986, when I exhibited my artistic
works in Milano (Italy) – by Centro Lavoro Arte – where I met Ruggero Maggi
who talked to me about mail art and invited me to participate in a project
“DON’T KILL THE ‘PEACE’ WORD”. I took part in that project with pleasure
and when I visited the show (by the way, it was made just in Bologna) I felt
immediately a strong emotion. I realized to be in front of a wonderful
networking circuit. From that moment I have never left off to make mail art.

RJ : How did things develope after participating in this first project, how did you
get in touch with other networkers?

Reply on 25-9-1995

AB : The mail artist MARCO LORENZONI, living at that time near Bologna, sent
to me a beautiful coloured envelope, duly signed and numbered, containing
one elaborate on which I put my intervention and returned it to him. This was
my first personal contact in mail art. Marco said to me he was moving to
another Region and in fact I never had any news from him since.
Successively I participated in the “WINDOW” project by Maria Rosa Simoni,
and also to the “SELFPORTRAIT” project in Ireland, and other mail art
projects in Italy and abroad.

At the beginning I made mail art in small doses, because I wanted to realize
well its meaning. I wrote to some networkers asking more information about
mail art and at once m.a. notes, magazines, fanzines etc. etc. reached me.

RJ : At a certain point you probably thought of doing your own mail art project.
How did you realize your first project?

Reply on 23-10-1995

AB : In 1990 there was the centenary of the GIORGIO MORANDI’s birthday, the
famous artist of Bologna (Italy), sensible interpreter of humble things, as just
the bottles. I wanted to pay hommage to him with the “BOTTLE PROJECT” ,
a mail art project. I received 100 wonderful works (30 real bottles and 70 bi-
dimensional works) from 19 Nations and I organized the exhibition in
Bologna – by KAOS ex MABUSE space. I was very happy for the success of
my first project.

In the catalogue I expressed the connection between mail art and the
bottles: …. MAIL ART as container of different emotion’s states, expressive
potentiality free from markets and system conditions, wish to make and
transmit art, but especially container of sensitive human relations
overcoming any geographical/cultural/ideological frontier…..

…… BOTTLE as container of thoughts, ideas, messages (in fact, in the past,
it was thrown in the sea to send appeals or call for help), but mainly
container of human history, as time symbol……

RJ : Doing a first mail art project is mostly a difficult task. What did you learn from
this first project?

Reply on 1-12-1995

AB : Before I got involved in the mail art network, I attended only the “official”
circuit but, notwithstanding my great passion for the artistic work, I often felt
uneasy, probably caused from the unreasonable competition that originates
false friends, from the personal interests, from the criticism’ conditioning and
discrimination etc. After my first mail art project I immediately realized to be
in human contact and especially freedom. Yes, I learnt this: MAIL ART IS A
FREE ARTIST! And this is not a small thing!

RJ : How large is the network you are in contact with nowadays?

Reply on 24-1-1996

AB : Nowadays I am in contact with a great number of mail artists all over the
world and, like you, I have to select. I am very sorry for it, but it is not
possible for me to write to everybody. So I prefer to stay in touch with the
networkers with whom already exist a “mail art feeling”, a mutual exchange,
a frequent mail and work, friendship etc. etc.

However, often, beginning artists write me asking about mail art and in this
case I send them a little documentation with projects, addresses and other
news, and naturally my contacts augment. Usually, when I organize a mail
art project, I receive works from 25-30 nations (thanks networker friends!!).

RJ : Which mail art project are you working on at the moment?

Reply on 4-3-1996

AB : At the moment, besides several participations to various mail art projects, I
am working on two of my projects: Centenary of the Radio’s invention
together with Lia Garavini of Forl