A history of Mail Art

Posted on September 16, 2005 By

The question is whether to write the history of Mail Art or to tell stories happening in the network of mail art. I prefer the little stories to “the big H” history.

Of course one has to be grateful, leave to Caesar what belongs to Caesar but mail art belongs to nobody, it is a legacy of mankind.

Mail art belongs to everyone.  It is open. Newcomers are welcome and equal in the network, in the planetarium, in the future, in the meditation, in the comfortable communication, the permanent feast, the poetry and action…

The mail art network has no father, no grandfather. No “first”, no founder. Nobody is the pope of mail art. Our network keeps running because patriarchal, elitist, narcissi, scholastic, juries, the competition and celebrities can go to hell, together with the selectivity, judgements, speed and business profits, and rocket aesthetics (nothing is beautiful, nothing is ugly), prestige and hierarchies.

The impossible history of mail art is underway.

 

Obviously I am mailartedly thankful to:

– The one who invented the postal stamp around 1830 -1840.

– This guy from Austria who, in 1869 invented the first postcard.

– Joseph Beuys, the German, for his wooden postcard and his phrase “every human being is a piece of art”.

– Robert Filliou “Job”, the French, and his statement “art is what makes life more interesting than art”, “that art

gets down from its heights”, “eternal network”;

– Ray Johnson, the American, for his non-school “New York correspondence school of art”

Our network therefore dates back to 1962 !!!

– Joseph Klaffki, the German for his famous “Joki”;

– G.A. Cavellini, the crazy Italian, for his obese extravagances.

– Peter Moreels, the boatman, who had his “mail artist studio” on the bow of his boat and mailed his cards at the

docks in the harbours.

– Antonio Vigo (Argentina), Guillermo Deisler (Chile), Robin Crozier and Wanda (England),Marcel Stüssi

(Switzerland) Don Rout (England), Joachim Wermoewe Weigelt (Germany), Ivan Preissler (Czech), Mike

Bidner (Canada) … and others …. for their heritage.

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But also

– To the painters Pablo Picasso, Vasarely, Leonor Fini, Miro’, Braque, Butor, ….

– To the Italian futurists (1909), Russian futurists (1912), Dadaists (since 1915) Francis Picabia, Eric Satie,

– Marcel Duchamp – he sent postcards to his neighbours for the project “Get-together of the 6 th of

February1916”, Kurt Schwitters, ….; to the Arte Povera; to the “art brut”; to the surrealists (+/- 1925)

transformers of images; to COBRA (1948 to 1951); to the pataphysicians (since +/- 1950); to fluxus  (since +/-

1960); to POP ART (in the 60’s); to BAUHAUS (in the 50’s); to CONCEPTUAL ART (in the 60’s); to the

cubists; to the new realists … Without forgetting the Post Dadaism and certainly the autodidacts …. and all

those who passed by for a short or long while.

By the way, I nearly forgot Eluard, Desnos, Cesar, Armand, Balla, Pannagi, …

 

“Celebrities” of the world of art thus touched on mail art, which is not so important to me. Of little importance for me is that words such as “performer”, “curator”, “collector” are not well understood because of their double or triple meanings. What matters and what is important is the existence TODAY of this network of life, of togetherness, of self-irony (I am a wild pig), of fantasies, keenness, dealings, underground (non clandestine) non control, imagination, collectivity, freedom, …social and democratic.

I have a limitless appreciation for this immense public service which is the postal union created in Berne in 1874.

Is it possible to not mix-up easily “post art”, “mail art”, “letter art”,  “posted art”, “postal art”, “correspondence art”, “networking art”, “mailed art”, … A strict definition is not possible. So be it. Mail art does not have a definite address.

 

This article is not a History of mail art. Being only in the Mail Art network since 1985, being only a practitioner amongst others, I don’t see anyone, certainly not the art historians, being able to write such a History; one of the reasons being that there is not ONE mail art network, but an unknown number of networks in the network.

 

When will there be a single universal spoken and written language? The image is a language. A Language of sounds, smells (ode to the pig), colours, shapes, signs, social objects.

Let’s be cosmopolitan! Nomadic! Risk it!  Long live the postman! – Without the post office, no mail art.

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