This question was posed by Fran Rutkovsky earlier this year and comes to me via Lady C, and here is a copy of some of the responses she recieved back by e-mail, plus answers sent to me.

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Mimi Holmes

Mailartisaccesstoanothersoulthroughaslitinyourbox.

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Crackerjack Kid

Correspondence art vs mail art was a big issue in the early 70s which caused a real split between those who pioneered early one-on-one private efforts and those who made "correspondence art" a PUBLIC manifestation. Art critic David Zack first coined the word "Mail Art" when he wrote a landmark article defining the form for "Art in America". That was back in 1971, I think. Fluxus artists like Ken Friedman did much to make correspondence art an international phenomenon...they were also early proponents of the idea of "networking mailart".

Feminists by and large dislike the term "mail art" because it sounds sexist. An alternative to that "problem" is Postal

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From:Julie Hagan Bloch

Mail art is making whatever it is you need to make, then giving it into the hands of the postal gods, and they see it gets where it needs to go. Sometimes you get an answer and sometimes you don't; it's all in the hands of the postal gods.

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: John M. Bennett

Isn't mail art made of chains, done up as snazzy suits? clink clink

Onword, Johneeeeeeeeeeeeee

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Catherine Bennett (Lady C)

Definition of Mail Art:

A mailed communication that may invoke the "old hippie" in us in that we attempt to express ourselves unhampered by someone else's idea of "art".

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Linda harkey

Mail Art is more valuable than a home equity loan offer and as intriguing as Valentine from a secret admirer.

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Doris Ruth Oppenheimer

Subject: femail art

Surprises abound on the moldy chili,

Wind some and loose some,

I still pass gas frequently,

but writing prose is not so easily accomplished,

after brain surgery

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Baroni

well, I don't remember who invented it, but the best and most concise definition that comes to my mind right now is the one that says, more or less:

"mail art is a big long exchange back and forth without bombs"

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WHAT IS MAIL ART?

MISHEARD OVER THE PHONE:

"May'll art? What's that mean? Art's a verb? That's not right."

- David Greenberger

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WHAT IS MAIL ART?

From: the late David Cole

Mail Art is the unbeholdingness of art. Behold that!

david in situ (transport)

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Guy Bleus

"The mail-art network or Netland is a free communication structure of hundreds of artists exchanging visual, verbal, olfactory, etc. information. Nobody owns Netland. Mail-art networking is a social and psychological art process (with golden mountains and silver valleys)."

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WHAT IS MAIL ART?

A typical question.

Mail-art is a luxury for creative people who have time and money to spend. I have always seen it as a communication-form between creative people. These people can also produce art, send the art, but this art isn't the mail-art. The process is the mail-art. The artifacts can be art, but in most case mail-art tends to be junk-art, quickly made mailings that go around the world.

with best wishes,

Ruud Janssen

URL: www.geocities.com/iuoma/

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From: Rudi Rubberoid

"Old Mail/New Mail"

Mailart is the spindrift of occular inclusion. A non-perfected personal exposition of temporal fugue remembered through trashstickers and chickenscratching brought to a mismal boil, then enveloped, stampared and coagulared postlewards in slowest snailmode. Obligations are minimal and dismal.

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From Chaospost

Mail art: Sharing art outside the museums, non-juried, welcoming, and no obligation for the recipient to respond. Magical, mysterious, inexplicable, experimental, guiltfree, and ever-expanding.

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"What I like about mail art is:

1.) I can use any material, any process that I want, ie. rubber carving, watercolor, photography,drawing, book making, paper cuts, collage.

2.) The image and meaning are more important than the medium.

3.) It disperses through the world instead of hanging on a forgotten wall." LaVona Sherarts

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From Dragonfly Dream

Mail Art- connection, networking, reaching out, scribbling one's soul on a postcard, a cry in the dark, see me, hear me, touch me, feel me, making art to share......

~ Dragonfly Dream ( today's definition )

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From Clemente Padin

"The networking is a flock of ducks. The songs of the ducks are the art mail marking their place within the group: "I am here". The artistic or aesthetic elements of the message favor the communication and could be considered like "art".

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From David Alvey

For me it's the thrill of opening the PO box and pulling out wild and wonderful treasures from creative spirits around the globe... and the anticipation that MY creation may provoke a similar reaction across town, across the country or even across the globe.

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WHAT IS MAIL_ART? From sci sam

It's a creative exchange between relatively rich people with a comfortable base in 'western' cultural values. The exchanges occur for many different reasons, including self promotion, abject romanticism, sociological interest, for fun, for political rebellion, as a result of mental illness, as a move toward inclusion in a group after being excluded from other groups, to promote a religion/philosophy, to promote ethical concerns, just to 'see what happens', to enhance one's art collection, for communication, to educate on specific and/or general percieved realities, to develop an artificial persona, and for a million other reasons spanning the entire spectrum from dead serious to pure play.

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? From Sandra Agens

Mail art, a free exchange of creative endeavor? Yeah, but what is mail art to me? Why do I do it? Mail art is a balancing factor in my life. My occupation uses the logical thought processes of science, and mail art fills the creative gap. Since I have been doing mail art, I am a happier person for others to be around and more productive and less stressed at work. I too have weighed the possible environmental impact of mail art -- gasoline utilized for postal deliveries, use of paper and supplies. Alas, I 'm a Libra. I compulsively weigh the alternatives of everything I do. Although I do not admit a final conclusion, for me the benefits of mail art outweigh the costs. And I can choose to use recycled materials for my creations. I look forward to finding something clever, outrageous, or beautiful in my mail box at the end of the day.

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? from Reed Altemus:

Mail art is whatever lands in my mail box (including junk mail) and how it affects my life. It is about communication and relationships. It is not about money, fame, glory, professionalism, or art but can be about sewing machines, milkshakes, lightbulbs, pepper, retreads, in fact as Ben said of Fluxus, it is "for the importance of what is not important". It also can have a social conscience- for peace, against racism, against sexism, for non-violence, against censorship, for the environment, etc. But the bottom line is the pleasure and joy I get at having that daily contact with other creative people all over the globe- ONE WORLD OR NONE!

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MAIL ART, TODAY...

That which is mail art was never written, nobody firm its regulation neither nobody structured nothing. Mail art has born, grown and developed from a spontaneous manner, but after forty years, I believe that all those that we carried some how many years exercising of mailartists, we know what it is and what it is not mail art. We know that mail art and the money are different things. We know that the selection of works and of authors, nothing has to see with mail art. This could result painful. That a consecrated or a professional lives together with a small boy or a beginner, could result painful for some, but it for my is the maximal dimension of this activity that we exercise. It is the full trust that we have in that the human being is creative for nature. And this, so simple, is denied an and again in the majority of the artistic movements. Mail art, besides communicating, capacity the creative vein of the human being, and that is its grandness.

Cesar Reglero

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MAIL ART IN THE NEW MILLENIUM

 

I have only been participating in and seriously studying everything I could learn of mail art--its history, its statements, theoretical positions, modes of distribution--and even in these few year I have seen many changes take place--and others, not, for some are always as it is said of "the Eternal Network".

I share the concerns expressed by many, Clemente Padin and many others, that many so called "mail artists" are not truly mail artists, but opportunists, out to make a name and money in an art world context by taking advantage of the mail art network.

It is my belief that these people will disappear--"like a thief in the night" they will steal what they can, and go off to sell their wares and never be heard of again.

I think that will sustain mail art trough all the changes in the technologies which now make it an ever more vital medium--I think what will sustain mail art is a sense of community--not only the community of the networkers themselves, but of their relations with their communities.

I think especially Luc Fierens and also Clemente have pointed this out--that mail art is made with the idea of a public in mind--a public which also becomes a part of the performance, by joining in, by becoming networkers, by having their attitudes and uses towards art changed from something that is far away--in the galleries, the art museums, the universities--to a sudden realization that art is to be made by anyone, and can be exchanged with anyone--as a communication.

I think that mail art may be seen for example in the very earliest markings made by humans--of hands imprinted or stenciled by spray painting--onto walls in caves-- this a communication which endures--even when the "meaning" is lost, the act of communication endures.

It is very true that a sense of possession is taking place with mail art--that is, its being turned into a property, which can be owned by museums, collections, galleries and so on. Universities will sponsor exhibtions and lectures, people will begin to collect "artefacts"--all of this will occur-- this always happens in market societies and systems--what is free must be made of worth, so that only a few may have it.

For a short time, of course, mail art will go through this period. But the worlds of art-fashion change rapidly, and mail art will quickly be disposed of-- and be carried on by those who believe in its true principles--freedom of the works--freedom of the people--freedom from property--freedom of communication.

I want to thank especially Luc Fierens and Clemente Padin for their teaching me many of the methods and actions of the Eternal Network and its relationships with community, the public, the people.

The continual community communication action of mail art, in all its uses of the various media--will continue to live, while what is labeled as the "corpus" of mail art rests, a corpse, in the hands of those who would claim to own it.

For the Eternal Network can not be owned. We who work in it do not own it, we are simply its participants, its workers. To those who believe that the changes of a new media pose a threat. I would like to quote Pascal:

"it is not the elements that are new, but the order of their arrangement".

And regarding the Eternal Network, Heraclitus:

"One cannot hide from that which never sets".

Mail art will not become hidden away, but remain vital and alive in the communication among and in communities.

Community--communication.

In conclusion, I note that within this last year I have noticed that many more mail art calls are involved with social issues, community issues. Also I salute the work that boek861 has undertaken with the projects done in conjunction with Amnesty International.

To me these signal a continuing vitality of mail art in the social sphere, the public sphere, the sphere of the people, of human liberty and the people in the New Millenium

--dave baptiste chirot

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WHAT IS MAIL ART? See some samples here and here!

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