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 to Jennifer Tobias – USA

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An envelope to the Moma for Jennifer Tobias. After scanning and sending I doscoverd that the postage stamps were missing. The artistamps were on it, but there is place for the original postage too…..

I will see if the envelope goes through or not. Actually an interesting experiment. I included an experimental letter as well for Jennifer. Will see if it reaches her and how she reacts:

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Mail to Thierry Tillier – Belgium

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There are several of thee envelopes that I have sent out. The individual stamps are made with foam letters, and I use several colors to get the impact. All kind of words are used to describe what we do. Fluxus, Dkult, Mail-Art. IUOMA, and guess what, the MoMa even made an exhibition of all that, not just once, but several times. So that means eventually things do end up in a museum………

And to go back to the basic idea of Mail-Art, it was a way to send art from sender to receiver without having a need for a gallery of museum to show the work. Times they are a changing….

Mail from Heleen de Vaan – Netherlands

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Received in the vacation this lovely Tile from Heleen de Vaan in Netherlands. She made is through the services from PostNL, and wanted me to have it to hand in the TAM Archive or give it a special use. Especially after coming home from vacation the text fits perfectly:

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So I will find a good place for the tile. Heleen always writes small notes with her mailings, so here you can read (in Dutch) what she wrote me:

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Heleen has several blogs. so visit her main one and see what she has been sending and receiving over the years at: http://heleendevaan.blogspot.nl/



(c) 1997 by RUUD JANSSEN.

Originally this text was written February 1994.

Life is a process of changes, at least it is like that for me. When I look back I can see how gradually these changes come about, but also I can see the real turning-points in my life. Only after those things have happened you can realize the full importance of things in your life.

To my surprise, mail-art so far has speeded up this proces of changes, and also my view of mail-art is changing rapidly. Surely also mail-art itself is changing in my eyes, but this is not an objective thing to say.

What I have learned through mail-art could repeat itself for someone else in another period of time. The mail-system itself hasn’t changed that much, although the way of life has……..

Evolution. For me, for the world, for mail-art there is also evolution. In my perception mail-art has changed enormously. Only personal mail now triggers me to respond. The xeroxes and chain-letters, the non-personal invitations to mail-art projects that look so much like that other project from years ago, the open letters with only my name written on top of the letter, and the rest turns out to be another xerox. It doesn’t inspire me anymore. I’m not looking for more contacts in the mail-art world, I’m only looking for time to do the things I would like to do. It fulfills me now more to write one long letter to a dear mail-friend, than to mail out 50 postcards on one day. I’m not interested anymore in keeping in contact with hundreds of people, but I value the personal contacts more then ever. It doesn’t matter if the mail is from a new or old friend, if it is personal I always try to answer promptly.

Evolution. When I started to write this text I had an idea where it should be about, but while writing it, my thoughts have shifted again. As one gets older one thinks more about what is really important in once life. Is it success, being rich? No, I already found out (many years ago) that respect by others is worth more then mo ney. Friends are more important than being succesfull and well-known. Making something you like yourself is more important than making something that is liked by others. Yes, you learn a lot when you live. A pity only that not everybody lives in their life (according to my definition of living).

Evolution. The process of changes. No mail-art anymore from East-Germany. Simply because the country ceased to exist. The mail-artists who lived there are still there, but their drive to communicate has changed. New ways are open, and their mail has changed. Hardly any mail-art from all those new countries (Russia, Ukraine, Sloveni a, Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia, etc….) because the inflation just makes commu nication almost impossible. Still hardly any mail-art from Africa. Only when the war- zones are on television mail-artists sometimes write about the situation.

Evolution. In former Yugoslavia, part of Europe, the most horrible process is taking place, and everybody is watching it on television. Only one letter from Bosnia in this war-time got out through Serbia into the world. And there is no way we can answer that letter. Also because the mail into Bosnia doesn’t work anymore. Only mail to UN-soldiers arrives, but where which Bosnian lives, we don’t know anymore……

Evolution. I don’t know how to write this letter. I probably print it a few times and will mail it to some of my close friends. Maybe they can help me with this story, and then I can change the text so I understand what I want to say……………..

Words are difficult tools when thoughts are changing. But words are powerful because the words in between the words you write are also there….

This text is changing as people react to parts of it. M. Greenfield from England listed a number of phases which mail-art has gone through, of which I have selected a few of the negative phases to discuss:

Chain-mail: A couple of years ago the mail-art network was flooded with these. According to Greenfield it has now become less. In my eyes it hasn’t. I think it has to do with if you participate in them or not. People who are looking for addresses to send copies to always look on older chain-mail products to pick a name….. But I agree that a couple of years ago it was really flooded.

Visiting-phase: Started in 1986 , and in 1992 the congress-year. Mail-artists are on the move and try to visit each other. If the wish to meet is mutual , there is no problem , but some mail-artists ‘use’ the network to find places to travel to.

Buy this: People started to try to sell things through the mail-art network. I guess this phase will come and go every time again. The old discussion of Lon Spiegelman (USA) , “money and mail-art don’t mix”.

Fake Mail-art shows: People start a mail-art project , and promise lots of things. Finally the organizer makes a show and a wonderful catalogue and offers it for sale to participants. Greenfield hopes this phase dies out quickly. And it will when mail- artists just don’t buy the catalogue and ignore future projects of this person.

Yes , I recognize the changes that M. Greenfield is mentioning. On a larger scale evolution always goes with quick changes forward and backwards, some are good and the ones listed above are bad…..(are they?). Only when you see things is a right time-perspective you can see how things are changing. But maybe I have to change this text again (and I did….!)

Evolution. Mail-art has a certain meaning in my life, and I know it has another meaning to another person. There are a lot of networkers out there , but only the ones you like you stay in contact with.


Reproduction of this text is allowed provided that the text isn’t changed, source is mentioned, and a copy of the magazine/book where the text is included in, is sent to:

TAM / P.O.Box 1055 / 4801 BB Breda / NETHERLANDS.


Lecture in Maastricht – 2011


This is me, giving a lecture in the Hedah in Maastricht, Netherlands. Organized by Rod Summers.

The complete details:


29 April – 24 June 2011
OPENING: 29 April, 21.00h
FINISAGE: 24 June, 21.00h

OPEN: Fri-Sun 13h-17h


Having just returned from Italy in 1972, the artsits Theo van der Aa and Ger van Dijck established in Maastricht the widely recognized initiative Agora Studio which was one of the leading art initiatives in the Netherlands until the 80s.

With astounding projects from all around the world and self administered art publications, Agora accomplished a central role within an international network of artists working with former avant-garde expressions such as performance, video-art, mail-art and sound-art.


Round table discussion with amongst others Guido Goosens, Theo van deer Aa, Ger van Dijck and Rod Summers, broadcasted live on Amsterdam cable television as part of ‘De Hoeskteen Live a cross media workshop’ initiated by the Amsterdam artist Raul Marroquin.
Music by Legal Fiction: Rosalie Wammes, Lucas Kramer, Martijn Riksen and Emmanuel Riksen

13.00h M2M
Mailart-project initiated by the Maastricht artist Rod Summers
15.00h Reading by Caroline Dumalin, art critic (English)
15.30h Reading by Anna Banana, mailartist (English)
16.00h Performance by Anna Banana
21.00h Mailart performance by/amongst others
Anna Banana, Rod Summers, broadcasted live on De Hoeksteen Live


mail-interview with Norman Solomon – USA




(With the sending of the retyped answers I sometimes made typing-errors to which Norman Solomon reacted. Some of the reactions are worth mentioning, and I have done so with the footnotes)

Started on 21-3-1997

Ruud: 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 8-4-1997

(Together with the invitation I sent a copy of the text of Ray Johnson’s unfinished interview. Norman sent me a photo of Ray Johnson at New York Harbor in 1958, and his answer is a reaction to Ray’s answers as well).

NS : Reply on : 21-11-94 RAY : THE MNO QP (mirror view) kind. What about Mimsy Star. She got pinched in the astor bar. RUUD: Was it a mistake that she got pinched………..

“Have you heard that Mimmsie Starr
Just got pinched in the Astor Bar?”

is by Cole Porter. The song “Well, Did You Evah?” was written, words and music, by CP in 1940 for a musical comedy, “DuBarry Was a Lady.” It was featured in a movie, “High Society” in 1956. WDYE was sung in “High Society” by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. The drinking in the study scene. The Astor Bar referred to was the one at the old Hotel Astor, owned by Vincent Astor, on Broadway near Times Square in new York City. this was not the newer hotel, the Waldorf-Atoria on Park Avenue. Vincent Astor, the well-known society playboy was a descendent of John Jacob Astor who founded the family’s fortunes hundreds of years ago trading trinkets to the Indians of Western Canada for furs, mainly beavers, whose pelts the British had learned to diminish for the making of felt for fine hats. The Astor family, later, continued their fortune-making wit holdings in New York real estate and banks.

In the 1950’s , Ray Johnson and Norman Solomon went to a lot of moviex together. They went to the Roxie, the Paramount, the Beekman, the 8th Street Playhouse and other famous theatres of that time. They probably saw “High Society”at the Loew’s State Theatre on Broadway.

Pinched had a double meaning here. It meant having a bit of one’s flesh held between a thumb and a forefinger which then got squeezed together hard. This might elicit a screech or a scream or an “ouch!” Or, maybe, not. Pinched also meant getting nabbed by the police, run in, arrested. If Mimmsie Starr got pinched in the Astor Bar by the police, for instance, she might have got her ass, or a small part of it squeezed (as above), or, she might have been for drunken, boisterous, outrageous behavior, or, more likely, for attempting to solicit an act of prostitution. It was, in any event, all in fun.

I have always depended on strange kindnesses for the nothings that I receive in the mails and I hope I can depend upon you to continue the same.

Ruud: When was the last time you talked to Ray? What did you discuss then?

next answer on 25-4-1997

(With his answer he sent a copy of a photo of Ray Johnson and Willem de Kooning, back in 1959, New York. Also the letter held some small papers with comments like: “Don’t make any corrections, Ruud. The mistakes are all part of the story……” and a photo from Ruth Kligman)

NS : Interview. II (pas de tout)

The last time I talked with Ray was the last time I saw Paris.

The Last Time I Saw Paris was the title of a book by Elliot Paul, an American newspaper person. It was published here during the early stages of WW-II ; there was a nostalgia kick. I read it then. EP wrote extensively about an upstairs Left Bank restaurant on the Rue de la Chat Qui Peche, which I visited in 1944. I had biftek and salad and wine and got so pissed that I threw it all up in the street. There still were cobble-stoned pavings.

I sent all of my Army money home to my poor mother. But, I could sell my PX ration of cigarettes for enough francs to enable me to eat well and to drink terribly. I was living, apperently, beyond my experience.

The Last Time I Saw Paris was used, then, as a title and theme for a song sung mostly by Hildegarde . She and it got famous and well-played together.

The Last Time I Saw Paris was made a movie in 1954. It starred Van Heflin and Elizabeth Taylor. They and it were dreadful. Walter Pidgeon, Eva Gabor (whose mother just died) and Donna Reed were featured in it. MGM had apparently decided that since An American in Paris had been such a great success and big hit in 1951, that they could redo the experience. They were wrong and they could not have been wronger. TLTISP was three minutes longer in running time than AAIP had been, but that didn’t help. Dreadful.

What Ray and I had discussed mostly at that time was that people, especially MGM movie stars, were looking puffy. Puffy, apparently, was coming in.

We also discussed the carers of Franz Kline and Bill de Kooning and the interstitial relationship of those artists with Ruth Kligman, and of hers with Jackson Pollock. I had photographed Ruth after she emerged from the hospital, from the crash results of 1956, and we recalled, looking at my pictures, how the stitches in her face had improved upon nature. She had begun to look like Susan Hayward. Beautiful.

We also discussed Ralph Di Padova. Now Ralph wanted to be a gangster, you know. He had also applied for employment to the CIA and to the FBI. They, neither of them, took him on, but — it was just as well. Gangsterdom was his first love, as a vocation. Ralph had an old-time Packard sedan that he sometimes took us around in. It was rather grand and very gangster. Ralph also had a sweet girl-friend of whom he took great and good care. She’d needed surgical operations for her bone problems and he took care of all that.

I notice, I should mention, some misprints or typical graphic errors in the Interview, I.

“fortune-making wit holdings” of course should have been “with” holdings though it obviously took much wit to make fortunes. All great fortunes are founded on great crimes, of course, but — what aren’t?

“went to a lot of moview” got printed for “went to a lot of moviex.”

See how simple it is?

Ray Johnson and Norman Solomon read a lot. They talked often and together about what they were reading and what it meant to them. Books of the 1950’s that got into their fields of vision were Zen intros by R.H. Blyth and Daisetz T. Suzuki. They read all of the early issues of the Evergreen Review, and discussed the cover designs of Grove Press books by Roy Kuhlman. They read Alice B. Toklas and they read Gertude Stein and they read Isak Dinesen. They read Edmund Wilson’s Memoirs of Hecate County. They read everything and anything by Yukio Mishima. They read the poetry of William Carlos Williams and even more by Wallace Stevens. They read the Story of O.

Djuna Barnes impressed them and something by somebody called Susie von Freulinghausen.

They went to a lot of movies.

In addition to Hollywood fare, they’d watch anything by Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa. They went to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and saw a history of World film. This was two shows a week for three years. They liked particularly the early German Expressionism, especially the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which got incorporated into their work and attitudes. They saw everything French from 1925-1931. But, the very best of all, was everything ever made by Carl Dreyer and by Robert Bresson. They both considered The Diary of a Country Priest to have been one of the best movies ever made.

Their favorite painter was Mondrian. De Kooning called Mondrian “merciless” in his approach. Norman and Ray studied Mondrian’s Piers and Water, noting the movements of the little fishes.

They hung out with composers, musicians and dancers. John Cage. Merce Cunningham. James Waring. Katie Litz.Lucia Dlugaszewski. Morty Feldman. Earle Brown. Norman knew a lot of jazz musicians: Charlie Parker; Sonny Rollins; Bud Powell. Ray did not know any. Norman had connections in the world of Negro music. Ray had not, and did not care to. Often their worlds overlapped, but not always.

There was congruence and confluence and con alma. But not always. Although often enough. Ray sought out Butterfly McQueen and seemed somtimes to be talking endlessly about her. Norman could not have cared less.

Did Ray play games or music? Well, maybe not conventionally so. Norman played chess, drums and poker. For a while, there was a kitten at his studio. Once, after Ray had visited, the kitten was nowhere to be found. Finally, by crying, it revealed its whereabouts. It was inside a drum. Ray played jokes.

Ray enjoyed talking about the power plays in prison movies. Such as who’d be carrying the shit-bucket to be emptied in the morning, before, during, and after a relationship. Ray was also fascinated and open to discussing at any time, whipping, whipping and ritual torture.

Ray Johnson’s favorite dish (they had experimented at many of New Yorks’s international restaurants) was fetishini.

But, besides food, movies, clothing, make-up, mor

mail-interview with Ray Johnson – USA

The Mail-Interview with Ray Johnson – USA (unfinished)


The Mail-Interview with Ray Johnson went in a special way. He reacted to the first formal invitation like this above. He also wrote on the backside, which added the dimension:


He sent it in one of his typical enveloppes:


I published the textual version of the interview too, which I will include here as well.This time also inserted the many visuals that make the interview so special:



This is the TEXT-VERSION of the two answers Ray give as part of my interview-project. I am still collecting all kind of information about Ray Johnson (before and/or after his suicide on 13-1-1995).

Started on: 4-11-1994

RUUD : Welcome to this mail-interview. A lot of mail-artists have stopped with sending out their mail into the network, but you seem to keep it up even till today. Is it true that mail-art is more then art, that it is a way of living your life?

(please put your answer on paper any length you choose….)

Reply on: 11-11-1994


(Ray’s answer was written on the original invitation to the project. He reacted to one specific word on the invitation, the word ‘LENGTH’, and he decided which length the answer would be…)

RAY : O.K. I choose 14